Patel picked for Willson lecture


Dr. Eboo Patel will speak to the public in Nicholas Martin Hall on Feb. 7.

Dr. Eboo Patel, nationally known for his interfaith discussions, will visit the Texas Wesleyan campus in February.

Patel is the 2017 Willson Lectureship speaker. The lectureship is an endowed speaker series established in 1946 by J.M. Willson, and Mrs. D.M. Willson and their family, according to

Patel’s Feb. 7 visit will include the lecture, a luncheon at Lou’s Place, a workshop, receptions, and a book signing. The lecture will be held at Martin Hall and is open to the public.

Dr. Mark Hanshaw, associate professor of religion and the interim dean of the School of Arts and Letters, has known Patel, a member of President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council, for years and worked with him on various projects.

“Eboo Patel has really been an instrumental figure especially over the past decade,” Hanshaw said.

Hanshaw had mentioned Patel and his work to Texas Wesleyan University President Frederick Slabach, who got a chance to meet Patel last summer.

“He’s a very impressive individual and he really knows what he is talking about,” Slabach said.

Slabach is recommending students and faculty read Patel’s book Sacred Ground, which is available in the university’s bookstore, in preparation for his visit.

“We’ve had some pretty thoughtful, provoking and really interesting people and I think Dr. Patel is going to really fit in with that great lineup of speakers for the Willson lecture,” Slabach said.

The Willson lecture series has previously brought figures such as Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; Naomi Tutu, the daughter of Archbishop Tutu; and Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Hanshaw said.

“The Willson lecture was established in order to bring prominent figures to our campus to discuss issues related to culture, religion, and generally issues affecting our larger society,” Hanshaw said.

Another member of the Willson Lectureship planning committee is Ann Davis, director of communications with the Office of Marketing & Communications.

Davis, who has been on the Willson committee for the past two years, said she had never heard of Patel before the announcement of his visit, but after looking up his work with on Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council, believes his visit is a great opportunity for students and faculty.

“He’s featured in The York Times, The Washington Post, and was the commencement speaker at Wake Forest last year,” Davis said. “He’s a nationally known leader in interfaith cooperation and I think it’s really good that he’s coming to Texas Wesleyan.”

The Interfaith Youth Core website says that Patel founded the non-profit organization on the idea that religion and philosophical traditions should be a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division.

Hanshaw said he hopes students will appreciate how important today’s issues are, and how to use their background to help them into leadership positions in their future endeavors.

“I think common ground begins with understanding,” Hanshaw said.  “Common ground can never be arrived at absent understanding.”

Dr. Eboo Patel will speak at Martin Hall at 7 p.m. on Feb. 7. His presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, go to


A correction was made on Jan. 26, 2017. 

Dr. Mark Hanshaw is the interim dean of the School of Arts & Letters. His title was incorrect in the Jan. 25 print edition of the Rambler.
Naomi Tutu is the daughter of Archbishop Tutu. Her last name was misspelled in the Jan. 25 print edition of the Rambler.