Past Speakers


2012: William Kamkwamba

William KamkwambaWilliam Kamkwamba co-wrote the New York Times best-seller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. The story chronicles how the now 25-year-old Kamkwamba brought electricity and the promise of a better life to his family and village in Malawi. Kamkwamba is currently a student at Dartmouth College. His story has been featured in The Wall Street Journal as well as on Good Morning America, The Daily Show, CSPAN Book-TV and NPR. A 2007 TED Global Fellow, he has spoken at multiple TED conferences, addressed audiences at the 2008 World Economic Forum, and spoken at schools and universities around the world.


2011: Michael Sandel

Elizabeth RoyteHarvard professor Michael Sandel explores the moral ideas behind the world’s most controversial issues in his popular lectures and books, including his latest book, the New York Times best seller Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? His undergraduate course in political philosophy, Justice, regularly attracts more than 1,000 students and is the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on public television.


2010: Elizabeth Royte

Elizabeth RoyteAcclaimed author and environmental journalist Elizabeth Royte is the author of Bottlemania and Garbage Land. A former Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow and recipient of Bard College's John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service, Royte's writing on science and the environment has appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Outside, New York TimesMagazine and other national publications.


2009: Greg Mortenson

Video: 2009 Greg MortensonMortenson is the co-founder of Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit that builds rural schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Pennies For Peace, which connects 2,700 American schools with struggling students abroad. He co-authored Time Magazine’s Asia Book of the Year, Three Cups of Tea, which remained on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than 100 weeks, with six months at the No. 1 spot.


2008: David Quammen

Video: 2008 David QuammenQuammen is a science journalist, nonfiction author and (former) novelist who has spent most of his life in Montana. He travels on assignment for various magazines, usually to jungles, deserts or swamps. His accustomed beat is the world of field biology ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation, though he also occasionally writes about travel, history and outdoor sports.


2007: President Barbara R. Snyder

Video: 2007 President Barbara R. SnyderBarbara R. Snyder, who began her academic career in higher education in the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, was elected president of Case Western Reserve in December 2006 and began her tenure as the first woman to hold the office on July 1, 2007. Her official investiture ceremony as president was part of the university's fall convocation in 2007.


2006: Michael Ruhlman

Video: 2006 Michael RuhlmanRuhlman was born in 1963. He grew up in Ohio and graduated from the University School in Cleveland in 1981. He is a chef himself and has written a number of books dealing with food and cooking. A writer of nonfiction books, he also focuses on the search for perfection in a number of different fields and crafts.



2005: Tracy Kidder

Kidder was born in New York City in 1945 and attended Harvard College, where he earned an AB in 1967. He served as first lieutenant in Vietnam and was awarded a bronze star. After his tour of duty, Kidder obtained an MFA from the University of Iowa, where he participated in the Writers' Workshop, a program known for the literary luster of both its staff and alumni. His writing has been prolific and outstanding, earning a Pulitzer and a National Book Award in 1982 and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1989.

2004: Helen Thomas

Thomas defined the way modern reporters cover presidents, from the glowing months of John F. Kennedy's Camelot, through the dark years of Watergate, all the way up to the dawn of the new millennium and the Internet age. A Hearst newspaper columnist who served for 57 years as a correspondent for United Press International and White House bureau chief, Thomas reached the White House by sheer will: she marched into the press room on Kennedy’s Inauguration Day and never left. And it was during this first White House assignment that Helen began closing presidential press conferences with "Thank you, Mr. President."

2003: Oliver Sacks, MD

Sacks, dubbed the “poet laureate of medicine” is an explorer of the human mind. A physician and scientist, he has made a career of probing into the most puzzling, troubling—and extraordinary—corners of neurology. His work describing and treating patients suffering from conditions ranging from color blindness to Tourette’s syndrome has generated valuable insight into the human brain and its limitless capacity for adaptation. Dr. Sacks has written nine books on his life and work, including the international bestsellers Awakenings and The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.