Journalist examines pivotal life moments


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Photo by Firas Sattar |

University Alumni Adelaide Marcus Zagoren and Susan Lester spoke at this year’s Zagoren Lecture 2013 at Trayes Hall on Douglass campus.


With this year’s Zagoren Lecture theme revolving around “life-changing moments,” journalist Susan Lester reflected on the moments that changed her life.

The Zagoren Lecture series at Trayes Hall on Douglass campus began in 2004 to honor Adelaide Marcus Zagoren, a class of 1940 alumna from Douglass College.

Lester, a Douglass College alumna, began her career as an associate producer of the television documentary “An American Family.” She won an Emmy Award and has worked at several major television networks including ABC, NBC and HBO.

Lester worked with many esteemed women within the field of journalism, including a position she held for more than 10 years as the producer of World News Tonight with Barber Walters.

Her lecture focused on the idea of personal turning points. Lester talked about the numerous turning points in her life that brought her to where she is today, including her initial ambitions as a music major.

At the end of her sophomore year, she experienced her first turning point, she said.

Lester decided to switch her music major to journalism in order to pursue her love of writing. At the start of her career, she struggled with her passion to rise as a journalist, because at the time, it was not seen as an option for women.

She showed the audience a few clips featuring Rosa Parks, Representative John Lewis and others who described what they called a turning point within their own life.

“Sometimes the turning point comes from another person, sometimes from within, sometimes from current art and literature,” Lester said. “How much of life can we control, and how much comes from outside sources?”

She said turning points are so subtle that the changes can be moments of life one can never predict.

“One minute you have one life, the next minute you can have a completely different one,” Lester said.

As former executive director of the Associate Alumna of Douglass College for more than 25 years, Zagoren’s legacy at Douglass still resonates with the Douglass Residential College program. She is responsible for creating the extern program, increasing fundraising, founding the black alumnae network and giving donations to Douglass College.

Zagoren also recounted her experiences with the lecture series.

“I have had the pleasure of listening to and meeting all of these Douglass alumnae who have gone on and had outstanding careers,” she said. “I am very pleased that the speaker is meeting with some of the students and the teachers who are involved in the career she is involved with.”

Valerie Zieniuk, the associate director of Alumnae Relations for AADC, said Susan Lester embodies the ideal Douglass College graduate and University graduate.

“The Zagoren lecture serves as a learning opportunity for students to hear from an alumna — someone who was once in their shoes, so they can know they can do it too,” Zieniuk said.


By Carlett Spike

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