Dr. Renee Lamphere: First-year faculty member delivers Last Lecture


On April 10, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke hosted their third annual Last Lecture Series in the Givens Performing Arts Center.
Renee LamphereThe Last Lecture Series allows students to vote for a faculty member to give a lecture with the message: “If you were going to die tomorrow, what would be the last lecture you would give?”

Students chose 29-year-old, first-year faculty member Dr. Renee Lamphere, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. She said she was “shocked and honored” to learn she had been chosen.

Since joining the faculty, Dr. Lamphere has been actively engaged with students and the surrounding community. She is a faculty member of the Safe Zone program, which aims to educate students and faculty members on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues.

Dr. Lamphere is also involved in the Robeson County Teen Court program, which serves to prevent youth violence in Robeson County. She serves as a liaison between this program and the UNC Pembroke community.

The title of the lecture was, “Today is Where Your Book Begins. The Rest is Unwritten…” She began with the journal she has been keeping since the age of seven. She reviewed it for inspiration for the lecture.

Dr. Lamphere’s first question about giving the lecture was posed to herself: “You’re 29. What do you know about life?”

“I want this to be a reflection of who I am and who I want to be,” Dr. Lamphere said. “I think each of us has a way of being in the world. This is my way of being in the world.”

Dr. Lamphere was close to another UNC Pembroke faculty member, Dr. Rohald Meneses, who taught criminal justice department before tragically being killed in an auto accident in February.

Dr. Lamphere was shaken by the death of her close colleague. One thing he said the day before he died greatly inspired her. Together they were watching a film for class, and Dr. Meneses said the most important line was to “live your dash.”

“Live your dash,” according to Dr. Lamphere is the time between your date of birth and death dates. She took this as living each day like it’s your last and making the most of the dash each person will receive on their headstone.

Dr. Lamphere said that she has and continues to suffer from anxiety. “Don’t be your own worse enemy,” she said.

During Dr. Lamphere’s youth, she suffered greatly from self-hatred, and her journals are littered with the language of self-doubt. She calls this “emotional cutter,” and it was a big problem.

“Recognizing this was the first step in stopping the behavior,” she said.
Making arguments to justify your own limitations will only prove yourself right, she said. Dr. Lamphere wanted everyone to know that mistakes will be made and that everyone should give themselves a break.

Dr. Lamphere began her college career as a music major but switched to studying crime before her first year ended. This sudden change was made by a tragic event. She was sexually assaulted.

After confiding in a friend that this happened, she received a response of “you can’t rape the willing.” This, according to Dr. Lamphere, was the moment she knew she wanted to switch to criminology. She knew she wanted to put people like her rapist behind bars, and to spread awareness against responses like the one her friend gave.

“It changed who I am today,” She said. “The main lesson I want people to learn is that if your gut tells you something is wrong, don’t do it.”

Dr. Lamphere also touched on other important lessons that she has learned including dealing with life’s unfairness, being kind to others, getting rid of vengeful personality traits, trying to brighten others people’s day, getting what you want when it’s not easy, and never letting anyone tell you that you can’t be exactly what you want to be.

Dr. Lamphere quoted Harvey McKay: “Life is too short to wake up with regrets.” She said everyone should take comfort in not knowing what the future holds.

“If you asked this New York girl years ago if she would live in North Carolina, I would say ‘nope’,” Dr. Lamphere said.

Dr. Lamphere takes pride in teaching all of the students at UNC Pembroke and is happy where she is today.

“You truly are the most wonderful students I have ever had the pleasure of leading,” she said.

She ended her lecture with a reassuring message that if they find themselves in a rough situation, things will get better.

“No matter where life takes me, I will only be an email away if you need me,” she said.    

Kean Spivey is a senior Mass Communication major at UNCP.