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Big Names for Contemporary Thought Lectures

Series brings nationally known intellectuals to Northwestern

EVANSTON, Ill. --- This year’s Contemporary Thought Speaker Series at Northwestern University will feature talks by Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp, noted philosopher and technology entrepreneur Damon Horowitz and celebrated short story writer George Saunders on April 17, April 30 and May 6, respectively. 

The Contemporary Thought Series dates back to the 1920s and 1930s. That’s when Professor Baker Brownell taught a legendary course on contemporary thought that brought Jane Addams, Frank Lloyd Wright, Clarence Darrow, W.E.B. Du Bois, Carl Sandburg, Bertrand Russell, Harriet Monroe and other notable figures of the day to Northwestern.

The series was re-instated last year when the Office of the President and Office of the Provost agreed to support an undergraduate initiative to once again present the ideas of nationally known intellectuals on campus and spark meaningful discussions on topics at the heart of education. Led by then undergraduate Jonathan Green, the initiative is now spearheaded by a student-faculty committee led by senior Ellie Graham.

The April 17 lecture by Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp is the inaugural Ray and Nancy Loeschner Lecture on Leadership, an annual series of lectures by renowned speakers that aims to inspire students to become leaders in their chosen fields. The series was established with a gift by School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) and Graduate School alumnus Ray Loeschner, former president of Olivet University. SESP is sponsoring Kopp’s lecture as part of the Contemporary Thought Speaker Series to provide broad outreach to the campus community.

2013 Contemporary Thought Series schedule:

4 p.m., Wednesday, April 17, Wendy Kopp: Kopp conceived of the idea of Teach for America while still a Princeton undergraduate. Founded in 1990 with an initial cohort of 50, the organization today sends a select group of more than 10,000 college graduates and adults as teachers into low performing, under-resourced public schools across the country. Kopp now is CEO of Teach for All, a global network of independent social enterprises she founded that also recruits young talent as teachers and educational policy leaders. Her free and public talk will take place in the Owen Coon Forum of the Donald P. Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road, Evanston campus. Presented by SESP, it is the inaugural Ray and Nancy Loeschner Lecture on Leadership.

6 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, Damon Horowitz: The director of engineering and “in-house philosopher” at Google, Horowitz is a leading thinker at the intersection of technology and the humanities. The founder of several technology start-ups, he writes and talks passionately about the importance of the humanities for people in technology. He has written for The New York Times, Discovery Channel, TechCrunch and other outlets. His academic work explores the topic of meaning in language. Horowitz’s free and public talk will take place in Ryan Auditorium in the Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston campus. 

6 p.m., Monday, May 6, George Saunders: This year Saunders joined writers John Updike, Saul Bellow and Alice Munro as a winner of the PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction. A MacArthur “genius” fellow and, most recently, author of “Tenth of December,” he teaches creative writing at Syracuse University. A recent New York Times Magazine article profiling Saunders was titled “George Saunders has written the best book you’ll read this year.” His free, public talk will take place at 6 p.m. in Room 107 of Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road, Evanston campus.

For more about the Contemporary Thought Speaker Series, email Ellie Graham at

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