Obama EPA administrator to visit Mac

Abe Asher

Gina McCarthy, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Obama, will visit Macalester to deliver a lecture on March 29 at 7 p.m. in the Alexander G. Kagin Ballroom.

McCarthy, who headed the EPA from July 2013 through the end of Obama’s second term and currently teaches public health at Harvard, is being brought in by the Lectures Coordination Board (LCB).

The LCB, which is comprised of five students and advised by Associate Director of Campus Activities and Operations Laurie Adamson, is given a budget of $50,000 from the Student Activity Fee each year and tasked with hosting marquee lectures for the campus community – often one per semester.
This year’s fall lecture was delivered in mid-October by longtime social justice activist and academic Angela Davis, while last year’s lectures were delivered by writer and civil rights activist Shaun King and poet Nikki Giovanni.

Noting that the past several speakers came from humanities and social science backgrounds, the LCB wanted to look elsewhere for this event.
“We hadn’t really had anyone from a science area or public health sphere, so that was more of a focus coming in,” Adamson said. “We had a list of names that we drew [from], but within our price point, Gina was a good catch.”

Price point was a key factor. Davis’ fee – $25,000 for speaking plus travel and other arrangements – meant that the LCB needed to sign a less-expensive speaker for the spring. McCarthy, who charges a speaking fee of $20,000, was a perfect fit.

“Another reason we thought Gina would be so interesting is because of the current administrator of the EPA, and because the EPA is being gutted right now,” one LCB member said. “She becomes a better speaker every time [current EPA administrator] Scott Pruitt opens his mouth.”

“We care a lot about what Gina McCarthy does, and this may be a way that folks can engage in conversations outside of the classroom and with larger global issues,” another LCB member said. “No one lecture is worth $20,000 to $25,000 if they just come and talk to you for an hour and then leave and the next day you go about your business.”

McCarthy’s talk is scheduled to run for 45 minutes, after which she will spend 15 minutes answering questions from audience members. She is slated to speak with members of the LCB to get their input on the event before arriving in St. Paul at the end of the month.

Tickets for McCarthy’s lecture will be free for students and available on Monday, March 5. Any unclaimed tickets will be made available to faculty and staff on March 19. If tickets still remain the week of the event, they will go on sale to the general public.