Internationally renowned author and speaker Eboo Patel told Conn students that they were in a “magic space.”
Delivering the second annual installment in the President’s Distinguished Lecture Series in April, Patel told the audience that a college campus is where many inspirational leaders formalize their beliefs and find their voice.
“So many of [my role models] were shaped when they were 19, 20, 21 years old,” Patel said. “You’re at that stage. There is nothing like being 20 on a college campus with the ideas and the people and the encouragement around you all the time.”
Patel, who also attended classes and spoke with students, is the founder and president of the Chicago-based international organization Interfaith Youth Core, which works with colleges, universities and community organizations worldwide to establish an atmosphere of religious tolerance and interfaith cooperation.
The President’s Distinguished Lecture Series brings notable figures to Connecticut College each year for a public presentation and informal meetings with students, faculty and staff. Last year’s inaugural lecture was given by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.
During her introduction, President Katherine Bergeron welcomed Patel and his colleague, Noah Silverman ’04, who serves as IFYC’s senior director of academic initiatives. In her remarks, Bergeron highlighted the shared values of Connecticut College and IFYC, and spoke of the need for Conn graduates to be prepared for professional collaboration with a diverse range of people.
“The work of the Interfaith Youth Core connects with the mission of Connecticut College,” Bergeron said. “They’re highlighting the central importance of interfaith understanding and advancing critical dialogues about social differences. I hope their presence on campus will help us advance our own goal of building an even stronger and more just community that empowers every student, faculty and staff member to reach their full potential.”
Silverman first met Patel during his senior year at Conn when Patel gave a talk on campus. Silverman was drawn to IFYC because the organization focuses on action and service. He emphasized the significant impact his time at Conn had on him.
“Many of my courses in religious studies remain hugely instrumental in my thinking and now in the work of the organization,” Silverman said. “I was able to find my life’s calling.”
Patel is a former member of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and a recipient of the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize. He began his lecture by crediting Conn for playing a key role in inspiring the work that has come to define his career as an interfaith leader. In 1999, Patel attended a religious studies retreat at Conn and the experience helped pave the way toward the founding of Patel’s organization.