Professor Nikki Giovanni standing at a Regis podium giving her lectureRenowned poet Nikki Giovanni delivered a thought-provoking lecture at Regis, with topics ranging from the enduring and invaluable role of nurses, the ongoing discourse at colleges and universities, to the significance of space exploration for African Americans. The lecture was the first installment of the Elliott Lecture Series, made possible by a generous bequest from late Regis English Professor Patricia D. Elliott, PhD.

"Welcoming Professor Nikki Giovanni to Regis was an honor, and we are grateful to her for sharing her incredible experiences and stories with the Regis community,” said Regis President Antoinette M. Hays, PhD, RN. “Thanks to Dr. Patricia Elliott, Professor Giovanni is the first of many renowned speakers in the humanities that we will welcome to the Regis campus to provide enriching learning opportunities for our community through the Elliott Lecture Series.”

In the university’s Fine Arts Center, Giovanni began by extolling the importance of nurses, equating their significance to that of grandmothers, emphasizing the nurturing and compassionate nature inherent in both roles. Including this year’s graduating class, Regis has graduated over 2,000 nurses in the last three years, making contributions to the regional and national nursing shortage.

Addressing the challenges facing higher education, Giovanni expressed disappointment in institutions that neglect their moral responsibilities as it relates to equity and praised Regis for its commitment to equity. “If you're not going to stand up for the innocent people knowing what you're doing; we expect… leading institutions to do this,” said Giovanni.

Giovanni, a poet, explained the virtues of poetry as a fundamental pillar of academic disciplines, including science. She advocated for a holistic approach to education, emphasizing the interconnectedness of diverse fields of study. Giovanni's impassioned plea for the integration of poetry into scientific inquiry underscored her belief in the transformative potential of interdisciplinary learning.

Giovanni also emphasized the importance of educating marginalized groups, particularly women and African American individuals, advocating for equitable access to education. She expressed her support for institutions like Regis College in their efforts to uplift and empower underrepresented communities.

A poem she wrote for NASA's Mars project served as an allegory for the Middle Passage, an 80-day journey by boat that transported slaves from Africa to the United States. She shared her desire for diversity in space travel, asserting the need for Black representation and the innate kindness and communal spirit of Black people. “I don't have like what you call a bucket list or something like that, but I would really I'd be thrilled to go into space,” shared Giovanni. “We need poets in space. We need somebody in space who will look and see other life, because we obviously have trouble seeing life on Earth.”

Drawing parallels between the obstacles facing African Americans to participate in space exploration and general obstacles African Americans face on Earth, Giovanni articulated the need for societal change and unity. She likened the journey to Mars to the historical plight of Black Americans, framing it as a quest for freedom and new beginnings.

Giovanni shared her vision of a future where prejudice and hatred are overcome, and humanity embraces harmony and diversity. She emphasized the transformative power of poetry and storytelling in fostering a world of understanding and empathy.

“One day, I look forward for hatred to tumble by the wayside,” concluded Giovanni. “One day, maybe the whole community will no longer be able to sleep. Maybe one day the Jewish community will be at rest, the Christian community will be at peace, and the Muslim community will be at peace. And all the rest of the of the world will be content.”

Giovanni, born in 1943, became well known for her poetry contributions during the 1960s Black Power and Black Arts Movement. To this day, she remains an influential figure in Black History and poetry.

Following Giovanni’s lecture, Dr. Elliott’s partner reflected on her legacy through the Elliott Lecture Series.

“When I reflect on Pat’s life, I think this lecture series is a natural continuation of her values, pursuits, and her belief in the humanities and a strong liberal arts education,” said Deborah Sawin ’80, Dr. Elliott’s partner. “Giving was an integral part of Pat’s life, and her gift will continue to bring speakers like Nikki Giovanni to Regis to enrich our lives, broaden our view of the world, and encourage us all to expand our knowledge and find common ground.”