Dr. John Pendergrass to Give Fifth Annual Kent Wyatt Distinguished Lecture

Cleveland, MS — Delta State University alumnus Dr. John Pendergrass, a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon during the Vietnam War and a noted Ironman competitor in the decades since, will give the fifth annual Kent Wyatt Distinguished Lecture at Delta State University on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 3:30 PM in the Jacob Conference Center, James E. Ewing Building. The event, sponsored by the College of Education and Human Sciences, is free and open to the public.

Pendergrass, an eye surgeon who lives in Hattiesburg, earned a B.S. in biology and chemistry from Delta State in 1965 and an M.D. from the University of Mississippi Medical School. The ophthalmologist is the first person older than 60 to complete in Ironman triathlons on six continents.

He will discuss how to build character for a lifetime, drawing on his own experiences, including those detailed in his recent memoir, Racing Back to Vietnam: A Journey in War and Peace (Hatherleigh Press). It chronicles his year of combat duty in Vietnam in 1971 and his return to the country 45 years later for an Ironman competition. “A superb, first-hand account,” praises Dan Hampton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and bestselling author. “It’s an easy read that brought back some good memories,” agrees Chuck DeBellevue, America’s top fighter ace during the Vietnam War, “and some not-so-good.”

“Dr. Pendergrass has life experiences that cut across all dimensions of learning and human growth,” said Dr. Leslie Griffin, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences. “He has an important message to deliver to students and the community about how to lead a life of excellence through commitment to one’s health and the development of a strong core value system.”

Tim Colbert, chair of the Division of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at Delta State, added, “Dr. Pendergrass exemplifies the type of character we would like our graduates to possess. He has a wealth of knowledge in many areas, including health, wellness, and physical activity, and has done fantastic things throughout his world travels.”

The Kent Wyatt Distinguished Lecture honors Dr. Kent Wyatt, president emeritus of Delta State (1975-99). The fifth president of Delta State, he was the first alumnus to serve in that role. Previous speakers include Dr. Renée Middleton, dean of The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education at Ohio University (2017), and Dr. Brian Canfield, professor of counseling in the Adrian Dominican School of Education at Barry University (2015).

About Delta State University: Delta State University is a four-year public institution whose more than 3,750 students come from most U.S. states and more than 50 countries. The university offers numerous unique programs, including the Delta Music Institute entertainment industry program, and is the only university in Mississippi to offer undergraduate and graduate aviation programs. Situated in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, which is recognized as the birthplace of American music, Delta State has become the center of music and culture for the state and the region. The university is also the academic center for the blues, offering an online blues studies curriculum that leads to a certificate for advanced study of blues music. In addition, Delta State offers top-notch academic programs in business, arts, sciences, nursing, and education, among other areas.

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