JOHN WITCZAK | STAFF WRITER
Named after Charles DeVon LaFollette, Class of 1920, the LaFollette Lecture is the most prestigious talk given at Wabash. Yesterday, Music Professor James Makubuya had the honor of being the 40th lecturer in the event’s history. Through his speech, titled “Ethnomusicology: Its Role, Power, and Significance in the Humanities,” Makubuya successfully solidified his name on the short and impressive list of LaFollette Lecturers. In an attempt to better understand the nature and importance of the lecture series, The Bachelor decided to delve into the life of Charles DeVon LaFollette, the history of the lecture created in his honor, and the reaction of this year’s lecturer upon finding out that he had been chosen.
LaFollette, or ‘Lafe’ as he was called by those who were close to him, was born and raised in Thorntown, Indiana, a community that had a population of just 1,511 at the time of his birth and lay a mere 23 minutes from campus. From these humble beginnings, LaFollette went on to graduate from Wabash in 1920, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi, managing editor for The Bachelor, director of the Glee Club, and elected to Phi Beta Kappa. From Wabash, LaFollette went on to graduate school at Harvard University, where he earned his master’s degree in Business Administration. For a few years, he served as the Assistant Dean at Harvard, before moving back to Indiana and working for the Bobbs-Merrill publishing company based out of Indianapolis.
Eventually, LaFollette found himself in Corning, New York, working for the multinational technology company Corning Inc., the current creators of the widely used ‘Gorilla Glass’ featured on many smartphones today. He rapidly climbed the company hierarchy, eventually becoming a Vice President and Director of Sales. All the time, Wabash never left LaFollette’s mind, and he became a trustee in 1952, serving on the board for 25 years and creating the Charles D. and Elizabeth S. LaFollette Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities. In the year of his retirement from the board, 1977, the LaFollette Lecture was born, and its speakers, who are always part of the college’s faculty, have enthralled and informed the Wabash community ever since.
Given the long and proud history of the lecture series, it was only natural for Professor Makubuya to be slightly nervous upon finding out that he had been chosen to be this year’s speaker. “My initial reaction was a combination of accepting that great honor bestowed with the invitation, but I also immediately realized that it came with a legion of challenges,” Makubuya said. Having been at Wabash since 2000, Makubuya has attended 18 of the 19 lectures that have taken place since he got here, and he knows just how high the standards are. He is also the first music professor to have been chosen to give the lecture. “I definitely took a great professional pleasure at the invitation for such a unique annual opportunity to share and relate my summarized academic discipline and field research experience with my would-be audience,” Makubuya said. If you missed Professor Makubuya’s lecture yesterday, you will be able to find a transcript of it on Wabash’s website.