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Captain Richard Phillips to present in Academic Lecture Series

Captain Richard PhillipsThe Lamar University Academic Lecture Series presents a distinguished lecture featuring Richard Phillips, captain of the MV Maersk Alabama during its 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates. The event will be hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences on November 7 from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the University Theater.

For five days, the MV Maersk Alabama was the subject of world news during the ship’s hijacking by Somali pirates. The historic conflict began on April 8, 2009 when a small band of pirates boarded the container ship ferrying food aid to East Africa.

The pirates held sailors at gunpoint, but the crew overpowered them and captured a pirate. The Somalis then left with an escape boat, fuel, food, and Captain Phillips as hostage. When the MV Maersk Alabama crew attempted to trade the captured pirate for Phillips, the pirates broke the agreement and absconded with food rations and the captain.

The U.S. Navy responded to the scene and began negotiating with the pirates. The standoff lasted until April 12, when Navy SEAL snipers fired at the pirates after witnessing one aim his machine gun at Phillips's back and concluded he was in immediate danger.

President Barack Obama, who spoke with Captain Phillips by phone after he was freed, commended Philips’ bravery and his concern for his crew.

Phillips is the author of “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea,” describing his experience and rescue. The story was also adapted in 2013 into an Academy-Award and Golden-Globe nominated film, Captain Phillips.

The Lamar University Academic Lecture Series, funded by student service fees, adds a significant asset to the university by supporting the LU academic community to hold two lectures each year featuring distinguished speakers whose disciplines are represented by each of the university’s colleges.

Previous speakers include developmental biologist and author John Medina, astronaut Sally Ride, entrepreneur Jerry Greenfield, journalist Tony Snow, professional basketball player Bob Love, author Sarah Vowell, freedom writer Manuel Scott, author Erik Qualman, choreographer Judith Jamison, actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., and synthetic-biology and metabolic engineer Jay Keasling.