The Lansing Town Hall Celebrity Lecture Series began in 1953 as a fundraiser to benefit the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. The intent was “to bring celebrity speakers to the Lansing area to share their talents and add culture to the area,” said publicity chair Susan Ellsworth.
That mission continues today, and the series is responsible for contributing approximately $20,000 each year to the LSO. Ellsworth said, “We don’t sponsor a specific program. They use the money however they need to.”
On Monday (Nov. 6), the series will bring Michigan State University alumnus Molly Fletcher to the Eagle Eye Banquet Center in Bath. Fletcher, 52, is an entrepreneur and motivational speaker. She was one of the first female sports agents, described as the “female Jerry Maguire” by CNN. For 20 years, she represented both athletes and coaches, including Tom Izzo. She’s been authoring self-help books about career advancement since 2011, and her ideas and commentary have been featured in major media outlets like Forbes, Fast Company and Sports Illustrated.
Fletcher is one of four speakers Lansing Town Hall has booked for its 70th season, which began last month with a presentation by Steve Hartman, who hosts a segment called “On the Road” on the CBS Evening News.
Ellsworth said she enjoyed learning new things about the CBS storyteller and left the event feeling inspired.
“I learned that he has a ‘Kindness 101’ show on CBS on Monday mornings,” she said. “It’s about four to five minutes, and his two children are involved. I watched a few episodes on YouTube, and it’s really cute.”
Ellsworth called the talks “an enriching opportunity,” saying, “You feel good when you leave because you’ve just experienced another person’s wealth of expertise. You learn something new that you didn’t know before.”
When Ellsworth retired a few years ago, her friend suggested that she get involved with volunteering for the speaker series. After attending a talk, she was hooked.
“I thought, ‘This is great! What a great group of people. I like this.’ It’s nice to hear someone who comes from a different part of the United States sharing on different topics or just entertaining us,” she said.
Although there are volunteers who have been involved for 40 years, this is only Susan’s fourth. She started volunteering just before the COVID-19 pandemic, and after riding out a few years of Zoom meetings, she’s chairing the publicity committee during the series’ second season back in person.
“It’s nice to hear someone kind and down to earth just speaking from the heart. That’s what I really enjoy about the speakers,” she said.
Past speakers have included PBS travel show host Rick Steves, political comedy troupe The Capitol Steps, Michigan-based musical group Three Men and a Tenor and many more. This season, after Fletcher’s talk, Lansing Town Hall will welcome The New Yorker cartoonist Tom Toro on April 15, 2024, and Harvard-educated law professor and policy advisor William Burke-White on May 6, 2024.
The programs begin at 11 a.m. and are followed by a luncheon and Q&A with the presenter from noon to 1:30 p.m. Individual lecture tickets ($45 each) and luncheon tickets ($27.50 each) are sold at the door on the day of the lecture but are subject to availability. Tickets can also be reserved over the phone by calling ticket chair Margaret Hedlund at 517-323-1045.
Ellsworth said that one focus for the next season will be making the ticketing process more accessible. For 70 years, the organization has collected payment by check.
“You call a number and mail in a check,” she said. I clarified by asking if 300 to 400 audience members do that for a typical speaker event. She confirmed, “Yes. Everyone mails in a check.”
Next year, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra will help the series launch an online payment system. For now, the series’ Facebook page, facebook.com/profile.php?id=100066385607610, has the most up-to-date information.
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