In 1981, Barbara Peirce, a part-time teacher of Kansas history at Hutchinson Community College, and her friend Jeanette Mull wanted to bring an event to the HCC Campus to be patterned after the Landon Lecture Series at Kansas State University.
With their idea in mind the two went to Ed Berger, then Dean of Continuing Education, who liked the idea of such a forum on campus. So Peirce and Mull proceeded to set up the program. They wanted to name the series in honor of Ray and Stella Dillon, long-time Hutchinson residents who were supporters of the community, in recognition of their contribution and their contributions and their interest in young people.
With the initial financial support of the Ray and Stella Dillon Foundation, and additional funding from friends who became the first patrons, the two were able to present the plan to the HCC Board of Trustees in November of 1981. Thus, the Ray and Stella Dillon Lecture Series was born, with a motto from the teachings of Chinese philosopher Kuan-Tze, that learning is the key to enlightenment.
The first Dillon Lecturer was former Iranian hostage Richard Morefield, who addressed a crowd of more than 2,000 people in the Hutchinson Sports Arena on March 29, 1982.
In the review of the lecture, the Hutchinson News said:
"The triumph is now part of the perfect inaugural in Hutchinson, in which the virtues of people helping people can be continually highlighted and stimulated. The Ray and Stella Dillon Lecture Series opens as a smashing success."
The first lecture ticket cost only three dollars, and the college was so overwhelmed with response from the public, that the lectures have remained open to the public since that time.
To date more than 140 speakers from all walks of life have addressed audiences at HCC.