Eric Gilbertson lectures at SVSU

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SVSU’s former president and current executive-in-residence Eric R. Gilbertson delivered the James E. O’Neill Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.

The lecture was titled “The Empty Ninth Chair: Politics and the Supreme Court.”

Gilbertson focused on the impacts a ninth U.S. Supreme Court justice has on the outcomes of high profile decisions such as abortion, same sex marriage, gun control and private donations in election campaigns.

“Who makes the appointments and who is appointed will shape the course of constitutional law for years, if not decades to come,” Gilbertson said. “A shift in the court’s balance could most certainly occur.”

In his lecture, Gilbertson also addressed some of the more controversial issues that have made it to the Supreme Court.

His lecture referenced Roe v. Wade – the Supreme Court case that determined the right to terminate a pregnancy within the first three months.

Gilbertson quoted Justice Louis D. Bradeis during the lecture as it highlighted the 7-2 decision in Roe v. Wade.

Furthermore, as Gilbertson discussed controversial and high profile cases, he also taught many members of the audience something new.

“I’m not someone who is very involved in political discussions, but this lecture gave me the opportunity to learn a little bit more about a topic that I am unfamiliar with,” freshman Allison Kania said.

Gilbertson is currently teaching SVSU courses in administrative science and constitutional law.

Prior to SVSU, Gilbertson served as president of Vermont’s Johnson State College, and he formerly served as legal counsel to the Ohio Board of Regents.

He completed a bachelor’s degree at Blufton College, a master’s degree in economics at Ohio University and a law degree from Cleveland State University.

He also has received honorary degrees from the University of Mysore in India and Ming Chuan University in Taiwan.

Gilbertson began at SVSU in August of 1989 and served as the president for 24 years.

In that time, the campus saw growth in both facilities and student enrollment.

Facilities grew three times its original size, and enrollment grew exponentially, tripling its size to over 10,000 students.

“Gilbertson is a huge draw because he’s influential and brilliant, but he’s also great with students who support him because of that,” assistant professor of political science Julie Keil said. “He still gives back to students on a regular basis. He’s a great resource for us.”

Dr. Field and the Field Neurosciences Institute have been a large supporter of the lecture series.

The Field Neurosciences Institute encompasses research, educational and clinical programs, as well as clinical studies and practices, laboratory research and medical education.

“We’re in an interesting position as having a former university president who really is an expert in constitutional law who teaches this stuff,” professor and chair of the philosophy department Peter Barry said. “Someone who can navigate the dark and tricky waters of constitutional law has really been an asset to the university over the years.”