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About- Lecture History


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 HutchCC 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 HutchCC 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 150 speakers from all walks of life have addressed audiences at HutchCC.

Ray and Stella Dillon

At the beginning of the century, J.S. Dillon opened a general store in Sterling and, in 1913, started a "cash and carry" grocery operation at 813 Main in Hutchinson.  Although Dillons has become one of the giant corporations of the retailing industry, success did not happen overnight.  There was no magic involved in the organization's growth.

"It was a slow, steady pull," J.S. Dillon's son, Ray, recalled of the early years.  "We just kept grinding away."

Ray's philosophy was simple:  "First, you must like people and working with people.  The second key is to pick the manpower to work with you.  What do I look for?  The same thing I wanted in myself, the love of merchandising and the ability to work with people."

Ray and Stella Dillon, the namesakes of the series, were born and reared in the agricultural region of the Arkansas River Valley - she in Pretty Prairie, he in Sterling.  

Ray and Stella met and married in Hutchinson in 1923.  Ray and Stella Dillon's legacy of community service continues to live on through the lecture series.

Talk about making an impact! Thanks for having Dr.Rick Rigsby.  I appreciate the great community spirit you have created." 

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