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The original item was published from 8/23/2017 9:02:02 AM to 9/1/2017 12:00:04 AM.

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Posted on: August 23, 2017

[ARCHIVED] ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author Vance appears at Aug. 26 MTSU Convocation

J.D. Vance

More than 3,000 new Middle Tennessee State University students who have participated in the 2017 Summer Reading Program will hear the author who has become a highly sought guest speaker and go-to media expert on social issues and rural American culture.

Kentucky and Ohio native J.D. Vance will be the keynote speaker for University Convocation, the official start of the 2017-18 academic year, at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, in Murphy Center. The event is free and open to the public.

To find parking near Murphy Center, visit People driving to Murphy Center should note ongoing construction along Middle Tennessee Boulevard between East Main Street and Greenland Drive.

“Convocation marks an important milestone for our new students, as we welcome them as full members of this academic community,” said Deb Sells, vice president for Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment and Academic Services.

Following the success of his first book, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” a memoir about his Appalachia heritage, upbringing and values tied to social issues in his former hometowns of Jackson, Kentucky, and Middletown, Ohio, Vance, 33, has become a regular on television talk shows (including CNN) as a commentator.

“Our newest students are about to transition to a completely different life,” said Laurie Witherow, associate vice provost for Admissions and Enrollment Services. “What a better teacher of adaptability than J.D. Vance?”

“His memoir will ring familiar to many of our students who will see themselves, their neighbors or their family members in the characters he’s brought to the page,” Witherow added. “I’m excited to hear him speak at Convocation and more excited that our students have that opportunity.”

Vance earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and a law degree from Yale University. Earlier this year, the venture capitalist formed a nonprofit called Our Ohio Renewal. He and his wife now live in Columbus, Ohio.

Filmmaker Ron Howard will direct and produce a movie adaptation of “Hillbilly Elegy,” which topped The New York Times Best Sellers list twice in the past year and spent 54 weeks on the list.

In 2014, MTSU moved Convocation to a Saturday because Murphy Center was being renovated. It returned to Sunday for two years. Sells said public sentiment swayed the move back to Saturday.

“We want to make the participation in the experience available to as many parents and family members as possible and we received feedback the past few years that the Sunday timing made it difficult for families with long drives home,” Sells said.

“The move to Saturday afternoon should mean that families within just three or four hours should still be able to drive home after the event — and those from longer distances can stay overnight and head for home first thing the next morning,” she added. “It allows for a full day of travel on Sunday for those who need it.”

University officials will observe a moment of silence for the students who have died since Convocation 2016, Sells said.

Following Convocation, all students and their families and faculty are invited to attend the annual President’s Picnic in the area outside the Emmett and Rose Kennon Hall of Fame.

MTSU students will have an opportunity to meet Vance when he signs copies of his books during the picnic.

To learn more about Convocation and the picnic, which is coordinated by the Office of New Student and Family Programs, visit or call 615-898-2454.

MTSU fall classes begin Monday, Aug. 28.

MTSU Convocation information
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