More than 3,300 people packed Emens Auditorium in November 2012, and enough others turned up that Ball State had to set up an overflow telecast in two more locations.
Not only had David Letterman, Ball State’s most famous alumnus, returned, he was on stage with one of the few media icons arguably more recognizable than he—Oprah Winfrey.
She was an archetype of the visitors sought for the David Letterman Distinguished Professional Lecture and Workshop Series. For more than 30 years, Winfrey’s work—her talk show, magazine, TV network, and charitable work, to touch the surface—have made her one of the most admired public figures today.
During their Ball State visit, Winfrey and Letterman relaxed in cushioned armchairs on stage as the comedian interviewed his media mogul guest and fielded audience questions via Twitter.
The cozy demeanor and Letterman’s trademark wit didn’t mean the conversation was light-hearted. Winfrey spoke of a childhood and adolescence filled with poverty and abuse. But had she not had those hardships, her success as an adult would not have been as rewarding to her, she told her audience.
At the conclusion, The Late Show host summarized her stories with, "This human experience of yours is stunning."