Lecture Events Bring Notable Speakers to Campus

Throughout the past academic year, experts across the fields of international relations, literature, biology and chemistry visited Wilkes to speak to the campus community and encourage greater conversation. University settings are important for sparking conversation and it has been Wilkes’ pleasure and privilege to bring prominent leaders across disciplines to campus to share their unique insights and experiences while facilitating discussion on important issues.
Marie Yovanovitch headshot
Marie Yovanovitch
Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and New York Times bestselling author of the memoir Lessons from the Edge, delivered the 2024 Max Rosenn Lecture in Law and Humanities, drawing a sold-out crowd of hundreds of attendees to the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center.

Yovanovitch served three times as a U.S. Ambassador, including U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, and most recently, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Throughout her career, Yovanovitch earned the Senior Foreign Service Performance Award eight times and was awarded the State Department’s Superior Honor Award nine times. She also received two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and the Secretary’s Diplomacy in Human Rights Award. Yovanovitch retired from the Foreign Service in 2020 and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.

Alison Bechdel headshot
Alison Bechdel
Established in 1980 in recognition of Judge Rosenn’s exceptional contributions to public service at Wilkes, the Max Rosenn Lecture in Law and Humanities has had a broad spectrum of world-renowned speakers including Jon Meacham, Terry Gross, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bryan Stevenson, Anna Deavere Smith, Cory Booker and Bob Woodward.

Cartoonist and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel opened the 2024 Allan Hamilton Dickson Spring Writers Series to a full and engaged audience in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts. Hosted by the Wilkes University English Department, the Allan Hamilton Dickson Spring Writers Series features a variety of authors, poets, directors and other accomplished writers annually. Guest speakers frequently read selections of their works, deliver workshops and participate in Q&A sessions.

Leah Vernon headshot
Leah Vernon
Bechdel is the creator of the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and the graphic novel memoirs Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Are You My Mother? and The Secret to Superhuman Strength. Her first graphic novel, Fun Home, was named a 2006 Best Book of the Year by TIME and was adapted into an award-winning Broadway musical.

The second visiting author of the 2024 Allan Hamilton Dickson Spring Writers Series was Leah Vernon, an international plus-size Hijabi model, award-winning author and content creator. Vernon is a Wilkes alum who earned her master of fine arts degree in creative writing in 2015. Vernon’s published books include her memoir, Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim and her dystopian fiction novels, The Union and The Dissent.

Daniel Torday headshot
Daniel Torday
The final visiting author of the Allan Hamilton Dickson Spring Writers Series was award-winning novelist Daniel Torday. Torday is the author of Boomer1, The 12th Commandment and The Last Flight of Poxl West, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and an International Dublin Literary Award nominee. Torday’s work has appeared in the New York Times, NPR, The Paris Review Daily and Tin House, and has been honored in both the Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays series. He is also a two-time recipient of the National Jewish Book Award and the Sami Rohr Choice Prize. Torday is the director of creative writing at Bryn Mawr College.
Shahid Naeem, PhD headshot
Shahid Naeem, PhD
Shahid Naeem, PhD, professor of ecology at Columbia University, presented this year’s Grace Kimball Memorial Lecture, “Thinking Creatively About the Demise of the Living World: Functional Diversity and Functional Traits in a Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function (BEF) Framework.” The Kimball Lecture is named for Grace Kimball, former professor of microbiology at Wilkes. Lecturers are chosen by University biology faculty as scientists who have distinguished themselves in evolutionary biology.

Naeem’s teaching and research focuses on the importance of biodiversity. Naeem earned the Ecological Society of America’s Buell and Mercer Award and the Lenfest Distinguished Faculty award at Columbia University. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an Aldo Leopold Leadership fellow. Naeem also serves as president of the Ecological Society of America.

Anne Valentine headshot
Anne Valentine
Anne Valentine, professor and chair of the chemistry department at Temple University, delivered the Henry J. and Linda C. Pownall Lecture in Chemistry. The Pownall Lecture in Chemistry was established thanks to Henry J. and Linda C. Pownall. Henry Pownall graduated from Wilkes College in 1967 with a master’s degree in chemistry and went on to earn a doctorate from Northeastern University in physical chemistry with postdoctoral fellowships in molecular spectroscopy at the University of Houston and biochemistry at Baylor College of Medicine with an emphasis on lipid metabolism.

Valentine’s lecture, “Exploring a Role for Titanium in Biochemistry,” examined how organisms interact with titanium at a molecular level and potential medical implications. Valentine earned her bachelor of science degree at the University of Virginia and her doctorate at MIT. She completed a NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Penn State University and then went on to serve as an associate professor of chemistry at Yale University. In 2011, Valentine moved to Temple University. Her lab research focuses on bioinorganic chemistry and she has co-authored more than 50 scientific publications.

Across many subjects and from a variety of backgrounds, guest lectures and speakers help to enrich the educational experience at Wilkes, not only for students but the community at large. Go to wilkes.edu/lectures for more information about future lectures.