11th Annual Weis Lecture Features Public Defender



Oct. 23, 2006 – The work of the public defender will be the topic of the 11th annual Emil C. Weis Lecture planned for Nov. 6 at Southeast Missouri State University.

Presenting the lecture will be Cassandra McKeown, professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.  The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Glenn Auditorium of Dempster Hall, and is free and open to the public.  Refreshments will be served.

“Speaking for the Voiceless:  The Work of the Public Defender,” is the title of the lecture to be presented by McKeown.  Drawing on her own experience as a public defender, she will describe the legal hurdles faced by the poor and marginalized.  Her talk also will examine communication variables (client consultation, impression management, presentation and jury selection) impacting defense strategy.

McKeown is a graduate of the South Dakota School of Law and has served as a law clerk in the South Dakota Supreme Court.  Prior to joining the faculty at the University of South Dakota, she practiced as a criminal defense attorney at the Office of the Public Defender in Sioux Falls, S.D.  She has extensive experience in legal writing and research, litigation, client counseling and negotiation.  Advocacy is one of her primary areas of interests because she says she agrees with Martin Luther King that, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Emil C. Weis, for whom the distinguished lecture is named, was a professor of speech and English and earned a bachelor of science degree from the Cape Girardeau Normal School (now Southeast Missouri State University) in 1918. He completed his graduate work at the University of Missouri. He endowed this lectureship at Southeast to provide an opportunity for students, faculty, and “all interested individuals throughout the region,” to interact with a guest speaker who could further an understanding and appreciation of rhetoric and public address.

As a young man, Weis declined overtures from the New York Yankees for what he deemed to be more important work. Instead of a career in baseball, he chose to teach so he might nurture the speaking and writing abilities of students and clergy.

Weis spent most of his academic career at St. Paul’s College, in Concordia, Mo. He required that his students write and speak often and well. Students he coached in debate won contests throughout Missouri. In addition, his students won state and national championships in American Legion Oratorical Contests.