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updated: 3/14/2012 6:02 AM

Judson University readying for Gingrich appearance

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  • Presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is schedule to speak Thursday at Judson College in Elgin.

    Presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is schedule to speak Thursday at Judson College in Elgin.
    associated Press


Judson University officials were prepared to treat the arrival of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich the same way they'd handle a graduation -- namely with security guards directing traffic on campus to Herrick Chapel, where he'll be speaking Thursday.

But Tuesday, two days before Gingrich's arrival, school officials put the kibosh on those plans after learning his Secret Service detail would be running the show, which meant Judson would need to step up its security game.

Gingrich will visit the university in Elgin Thursday morning to hold a town hall-style forum centered on Latino voters and their issues. According to the 2010 Census, Elgin is 40 percent Latino. Also Thursday, Gingrich and his wife, Callista, will hold a rally at Lake in the Hills Airport and his wife has plans to speak at the Goddard School, also in Lake in the Hills. Gingrich trails Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in the electoral vote count.

The Judson event will include a 25-minute speech from Gingrich, after which he will open the floor to questions from the audience for 20 minutes.

Judson officials hope this event, which is open to the public and the news media, thrusts the Evangelical Christian university into the national spotlight, gives people something to talk about and encourages more high-profile guests.

Last year, Judson played host to its first World Leaders forum that featured former President George W. Bush. Next month, it will hold its second such forum, with former Soviet Union Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev as the guest of honor.

"It's always exciting when a person of national repute knows Judson and wants to come to Judson," President Jerry Cain said. "In other words, we didn't invite (Gingrich), he invited himself and asked if he could come and that's kind of a feather in our cap."

A 2004 Judson alumnus helped make all of this possible.

Mark Vargas is an international business development and federal affairs consultant working in Washington, D.C. A month ago, the St. Charles native learned through a representative from the Hispanics for Gingrich Committee, which is organizing the event, that the candidate was going to be stumping in Illinois before next Tuesday's primary and needed a venue at which to address local Latinos.

"I just made a recommendation, and it got back to the campaign that Judson University was available, and it just seemed like a natural fit for a former college professor, turned speaker of the House to address the Judson community," Vargas said.

Gingrich's people contacted Judson and things went from there, Judson spokeswoman Mary Dulabaum said.

Judson has reached out to the community and also invited representatives from Centro de Información and the League of United Latin American Citizens to attend.

Other than security, Gingrich's campaign hasn't made any demands on the school thus far. Moreover, Judson is not paying Gingrich for his appearance, nor is it donating to his campaign, Dulabaum said.

The school also doesn't endorse some of the choices Gingrich has made in his private life.

With his admitted infidelity, Gingrich has shown values that the Evangelical Christian school frowns upon, but that's no reason to exclude him from campus, Cain said.

"We certainly would not affirm that infidelity, and he's not here as a moral guide to our students. He's here because he is the former speaker of the House of Representatives," Cain said. "As an educational institution, we must engage people and ideas that we don't agree with and we must learn to talk about them ... this is an educational experience dealing with ideas and certainly not the model of morality we encourage our students to follow."

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