Friends' Central School's Distinguished Lecture Series seeks to inspire the next generation of writers, educators, scientists, researchers, policy makers, and thinkers by bringing renowned scholars to campus for courses and a public lecture. A core group of Friends' Central students prepare for the lectures in advance and participate in special classes and workshops both on campus and at the lecturer's home institution as part of the Distinguished Visiting Justice Leader, Humanist and Scientist Programs. These lectures are free and open to the public.
March 20, 2023 • 7 pm - Patrick Rosal, Distinguished Visiting Humanities Lecturer
April 12, 2023 • 7 pm - Edith Widder, Distinguished Visiting Scientist
- Jon Grispan '02
- J. Marshall Shepherd
- Tiffany Jewell
- James Ijames
- Robin Hopkins
- André Robert Lee
- Helen White
- Daniel Immerwahr ’98
- Steven Larson
- Rebecca Saxe
- Daniel Torday
- Mona Hanna-Attisha
- Douglas Emlen
- Janna Levin
- Elizabeth Milroy
- David Reich
- Asali Solomon
- David Charbonneau
- John Mather
- Lara Cohen '95 and Halimah Marcus '03
- Lawrence C. Smith
- Al Filreis
- Hopi Hoekstra
- Dan Biddle '71
- Brian Greene
- Ki Ann Goosens
- Eve Troutt Powell
- Laurel Ulrich
- Jared Diamond
- Jonathan Rieder '65
- Peter Demenocal
- Wade Davis
2022 DISTINGUISHED VISITING HUMANITIES LECTURER
Jon Grinspan '02 is Curator of Political History at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. He is the author of the award-winning The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the 19th Century. He recently published his second book The Age of Acrimony: How Americans Fought to Fix Their Democracy, 1865-1915. He frequently contributes to the New York Times, and has been featured in The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. He lives in Washington, D.C.
2022 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST, INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE EXPERT AND PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd is a leading international expert in weather and climate and is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia. He was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS). In his excellent lecture to the FCS community, Dr. Shepherd presented his research on urban heat islands and their disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. In addition, Dr. Shepherd talked about ways we can make urban meteorology actionable.
2021-2022 DISTINGUISHED VISITING JUSTICE LEADER
Tiffany Jewell is a Black biracial writer, twin sister, first generation American, cisgender mama, anti-bias antiracist (ABAR) educator, and consultant. She is the author of the #1 New York Times and #1 Indie Bestseller, This Book Is Anti-Racist, a book for young folks and everyone to wake up, take action, and do the work of becoming antiracist.
2021 DISTINGUISHED VISITING HUMANITIES LECTURER
James Ijames is a Pulitzer-prize-winning Philadelphia-based playwright, director, performer, and educator. Ijames will discuss his work, including his play Fat Ham, being premiered in digital form this spring at the Wilma Theater and described as a "contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, set on a pig farm in the American South, that explores big issues (like toxic masculinity and cycles of violence) with a light touch." Ijames is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University. In 2022, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fat Ham.
2021 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST, EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Dr. Robin Hopkins is an evolutionary biologist with a deep background in botany, ecology, plant-pollinator relationships, and the dynamics of natural selection and speciation. Dr. Hopkins is the John Loeb Associate Professor of Natural Sciences and Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Her research examines speciation in plants, predominantly focused on reinforcement, the process in which reduced hybrid fitness generates selection for the evolution of reproductive isolation between emerging species.
2020-2021 DISTINGUISHED VISITING JUSTICE LEADER
The school-to-prison pipeline is a well-documented, grim reality in our country. Director André Robert Lee’s documentary Virtually Free explores an unlikely Richmond partnership and its effort to transform the justice system and stop mass incarceration. Lee also directed and produced The Prep School Negro and produced
I’m Not Racist … Am I?.
2020 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST, GEOCHEMIST AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT HAVERFORD COLLEGE
Helen White is Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies and Director of The Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center (KINSC) at Haverford College. Her work as a geochemist has focused on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in a collaborative project that examined what happened chemically to the oil and to the dispersants used in the aftermath of the disaster. She is the winner of Haverford College's 2017 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.
2020 DISTINGUISHED HUMANITIES LECTURER, AUTHOR AND NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
Daniel Immerwahr is an author and associate professor at Northwestern University, specializing in 20th-century U.S. history within a global context. His recent book, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, is described by the New York Times as “wry, readable, and often astonishing.” His first book, Thinking Small, offers a critical account of grassroots development campaigns launched by the United States at home and abroad.
2019-2020 DISTINGUISHED VISITING JUSTICE LEADER
Dr. Steven Larson, subject of the HBO documentary Clínica de Migrantes, is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Puentes de Salud, a nonprofit organization that promotes the health and wellness of Philadelphia’s rapidly growing Latinx immigrant population. Dr. Larson is also Assistant Dean for Global Health Programs and an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
2019 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST, COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENTIST AND MIT PROFESSOR
Cognitive neuroscientist and professor in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Dr. Saxe shared her research in her lecture entitled "It's the Thought that Counts: Progress Towards a Neuroscience of Theory of Mind."
2018-2019 DISTINGUISHED VISITING JUSTICE LEADER, PEDIATRICIAN, PROFESSOR, AND NOTED PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, whose research exposed the Flint water crisis, is a pediatrician, professor, public health advocate, and author of What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City. Dr. Hanna-Attisha was Friends' Central's inaugural Distinguished Justice Leader.
2018 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST, EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST AND PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY
Evolutionary biologist Douglas Emlen delivered a fascinating lecture titled "Extravagant Results of Nature's Arms Race." He spoke about the evolutionary forces that have made animal weapons so diverse. Emlen has received the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering from the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, multiple research awards from the National Science Foundation, and the E. O. Wilson Naturalist Award from the American Society of Naturalists. He is the author of Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle.
2017 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST, BARNARD COLLEGE PROFESSOR OF ASTROPHYSICS
Dr. Janna Levin is the author of – among several books – Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space. She is also director of sciences at Pioneer Works, a non-profit foundation in Brooklyn that fosters multidisciplinary creativity in the arts and sciences. Levin's Distinguished Lecture was entitled "Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space: The Story of the Detection of Gravitational Waves."
2017 DISTINGUISHED HUMANITIES LECTURER
Dr. Elizabeth Milroy, Professor and Department Head of Art and Art History in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University and author of The Grid and the River: Philadelphia’s Green Places, 1682-1876, delivered a lecture entitled, "Inventing Public Parks: Frederick Law Olmsted & Philadelphia's Green Places."
2016 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST, HARVARD PROFESSOR OF GENETICS
David Reich, Professor of Genetics at Harvard University and population genomic researcher delivered a fascinating lecture entitled "Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past."
David Reich is interested in human history and its relationship to biology. His lab takes advantage of the revolution in gene sequencing that has occurred in the last decade, along with new technology to sequence DNA extracted from ancient bones. The historical perspective that he brings to genetic data has led to a number of new insights about human biology and disease.
2016 DISTINGUISHED HUMANITIES LECTURER
Asali Solomon, author of the critically acclaimed novel Disgruntled and Assistant Professor of English at Haverford College, spoke about her novel and about the creative writing process. Solomon's lecture was the culminating event in our yearlong community-wide exploration of the theme "Girls in Transition: Coming of Age Across Cultures."
2014 DISTINGUISHED VISITING HUMANITIES LECTURERS
Illustrious FCS graduates Lara Cohen ’95, Assistant Professor of English at Swarthmore College, and Halimah Marcus ’03, Editor-in-Chief, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, discussed the thread of American literary production from past to present: how stories are written, edited, published, and distributed, and what it means to be a literary entrepreneur in the democratic realm of the Internet.
2014 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST, UCLA CLIMATE SCIENTIST AND AUTHOR
One of the world’s most respected climate scientists, the work of Dr. Laurence Smith, Professor and Chair of Geography and Professor of Earth & Space Sciences at UCLA, envisions the future of a warmed planet. His debut book, The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilizations Northern Future, has received praise and critical acclaim for its assessment of future climate change and its effects on northern ecosystems and countries, including the United States. Smith has published over 70 articles in leading science journals, and his work has also been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The LA Times, The Washington Post, NPR, BBC, and CBC Radio.
2013 DISTINGUISHED VISITING HUMANITIES LECTURER – AUTHOR, ENGLISH PROFESSOR, AND DIRECTOR, KELLY WRITERS HOUSE, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
Al Filreis, Kelly Professor, Director of the Kelly Writers House, and Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, has prepared a mini-version of his hugely successful (online) Coursera course just for the FCS community. This exciting, dynamic course will focus on his trademark modern and contemporary American poetry work at Penn, as well as his Coursera course, popularly known as “ModPo.” Read more about his poetry at http://fcsmodpo.blogspot.com/
Filreis is the author of several books, including Secretaries of the Moon, Wallace Stevens & the Actual World, Modernism from Left to Right, and Counter-Revolution of the Word, and is the co-founder and co-director of PennSound, a web-based archive of one of the largest collections of digital recordings of modern poetry on the Internet. Filreis is also the parent of two alumni/ae, Ben Filreis ’10 and Hannah Albertine ’12.
2013 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST
"FROM DARWIN TO DNA"
Hoekstra is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Curator of Mammals in the Museum of Comparative Zoology with Harvard University's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Her work involving the Evolutionary and Ecological Genetics of Adaptation and Speciation has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, National Geographic, the Washington Post, and Popular Science, as well as television and radio networks, including MSNBC, NPR, CBC Radio, and BBC News.
2012 DISTINGUISHED HUMANITIES LECTURE
"TASTING FREEDOM: OCTAVIUS CATTO AND THE BATTLE FOR EQUALITY IN CIVIL WAR AMERICA"
Dan Biddle ’71 highlights Friends’ Central’s year-long celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Hear Biddle and co-author Murray Dubin talk about their book, Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America, which the Philadelphia Inquirercalls, “A masterful history, centering on Philadelphia and 19th-century leader Octavius Catto.” While working for the Inquirer, Biddle and his investigative reporting team won a Pulitzer Prize for their series about injustice in the Philadelphia court system.
2012 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST
"THE HIDDEN REALITY"
Columbia Professor, physicist, string theorist, and author Brian Greene has been described as “the single best explainer of abstruse concepts in the world today” by the Washington Post. Greene is the author of several New York Timesbestsellers including The Elegant Universe.
2010 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST
"THE STRESSED BRAIN: PROVIDING NEW INSIGHTS INTO TREATMENTS FOR PATHOLOGICAL FEAR AND ANXIETY”
Ki Ann Goosens, Principal Investigator, MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research & Assistant Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT University, studies the relationship between fear, anxiety, and stress. She found that chronic stress increases the tendency to form fearful memories. Her current research is focused on understanding the basis of this effect. Goosens hopes that a better understanding of the brain's response to stress will lead to new therapeutic strategies for anxiety disorders, depression, and other psychiatric diseases. Later in the spring, the students visited Ki Ann Goosens at her laboratories at the McGovern Institute.
2011 DISTINGUISHED HUMANITIES LECTURE
"OTHER PEOPLE’S HELP: EXPLORING SLAVERY & SERVITUDE IN OTHER CULTURES"
Eve Troutt Powell, an expert on Middle East history and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, will speak about slavery in the Middle East and East Africa. Learn how the American Perception of "The Help" compares with the history of slavery in the Middle East and East Africa. Powell is Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain and the Mastery of the Sudan.
2009 DISTINGUISHED HUMANITIES LECTURE
"IN THE GARRETS AND RATHOLES OF OLD HOUSES"
Laurel Ulrich, 300th Anniversary Professor of History at Harvard University & Friends' Central School grandparent, is well known for her work in early American social history, women's history, and material cultures. Her book, A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, won the Pulitzer Prize in History and the Bancroft Prize in History in 1991.
2009 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST
"GLOBALIZATION: FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE"
Jared Diamond began his career as a biologist studying birds in Papua New Guinea. Today, the scope of his research includes some of the most challenging questions in the world:
* Why have certain groups of people dominated others historically?
• What causes cultures to disintegrate and how can we preserve our own?
• How do interactions with biology and the environment shape human cultures?
• What are the implications of globalization for different human societies?
In recognition of his work, Diamond has been awarded the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Science, and the National Geographic Society’s Burr Award. Currently, he serves as a professor of Physiology and Geography at UCLA.
2008 DISTINGUISHED HUMANITIES LECTURE
"THE WORD OF THE LORD IS UPON ME: THE RIGHTEOUS PERFORMANCE OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR."
In The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me, Jon Rieder '65, Professor of Sociology at Barnard College, Columbia University, takes us "deep into King’s backstage discussions [to tell] a powerful story about the tangle of race, talk, and identity in the life of one of America’s greatest moral and political leaders." (Harvard University Press)
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. calls the book "absolutely brilliant....Rieder represents King as a master performer who was never less than authentic."
Jon's lecture included previously unseen footage of King and relate his analysis of King's oratorical performances to the political speeches that have defined the 2008 election year.
2008 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST
"UNDERSTANDING OUR GLOBAL WARMING FORECAST: OUR PAST AND FUTURE CLIMATE."
On Thursday, April 10, 2008 the Friends' Central School Distinguished Scientist Program welcomed Peter DeMenocal, Associate Professor at the Earth Institute of Columbia University. DeMenocal is a paleocenaograher/marine geologist who uses geochemical analyses of marine sediment to understand how and why climates are changing. He was featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The 11th Hour, and regularly lectures on impending changes the earth faces. He delivered portions of his recent paper, "Cultural Responses to Climate Change in the Late Holocene" which looks to past cultural adaptations to persistent climate change…[for] perspective on possible responses of modern societies to future climate change." Later in the year, a select group of Friends' Central students visited DeMenocal at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Obervatory in New York.
2007 DISTINGUISHED VISITING SCIENTIST
"LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD: AN EXPLORATION OF DIVERSITY IN THE BIOLOGICAL AND HUMAN WORLDS"
Davis, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, is an ethnobotanist and anthropologist who has spent the past 25 years studying the ways indigenous people live in harmony with the natural world. He has lived in Borneo, Australia, Tibet, Kenya, Haiti, the Arctic, and the Amazon exploring the connection between cultural and biodiversity. His new book, Light at the Edge of the World, is a collection of photographic essays documenting his time spent with vanishing cultures. Later in the spring, a select group of Friends’ Central students visited Davis at National Geographic in Washington, D.C.