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Musician, OU professor to be diversity speaker

IRONTON — J.W. Smith, an OU professor, musician and author, will be the guest speaker at the Diversity Lecture Series at Ohio University Southern.

Smith, who was born blind, has worked as a music therapist and radio announcer and is currently a professor of speech communication at Ohio University.

“He’s just a tremendously powerful speaker and singer,” Robert Pleasant, director of enrollment and student services, said. “I’ve never had a class with him but I’ve heard he’s wonderful.”

Smith was the keynote speaker for the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

In addition to speaking, Smith will be singing as well.

Smith’s message is that differences are not necessarily deficiencies, Pleasant said, adding that being blind and black has not stopped Smith from succeeding.

“A lot of the time we look at our differences as deficiencies,” Pleasant said. “They’re not.”

The school started the diversity lecture series in the fall. Each quarter the series features different speakers who read from their creative works or discuss their experiences.

“I think we live in a diverse community, a global community,” Pleasant said. “In order for us to grow, we must reach out. Everyone is unique and we must celebrate that.”

This quarter’s installment of the Diversity Lecture Series will be 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ohio University Southern Rotunda. The event is free to the public.