Featured Speaker

Dacher Keltner

Dacher Keltner standing outside with arms crossed.

Dacher Keltner is a Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, renowned for his research on the science of compassion and awe. He is Director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab, and serves as the Faculty Director of the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. His research focuses on the biological and evolutionary origins of compassion, awe, love, and beauty, as well as power, social class, and inequality.  

Keltner is the author of The Power Paradox, as well as the bestseller Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life and The Compassionate Instinct. He has published over 190 scientific articles, including seminal works on the psychology of awe. He has written for the New York Times Magazine, and his research has been covered in TIME, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, CNN, NPR, and the BBC as well as many other outlets.

Keltner was the scientific consultant for the Pixar film Inside Out, for which he helped revise the story emphasizing the neuropsychological findings that human emotions are mirrored in interpersonal relationships and can be significantly moderated by them. 

Keltner's lecture will address the abuses of power from empathy deficits to impulsivity, and what can be done to promote positive social change in the face of these pitfalls. 


Distinguished speakers come to Case Western Reserve University as part of this annual lecture to engage our community in active discourse on important subjects.

Previous speakers for this annual lecture include:

2019: Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a literary scholar, writer, and professor at the University of Southern California.His bestselling novel The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. With his collection of short stories, The Refugees, Nguyen continues his exploration of the tensions, traumas and conflicting loyalties that endure far beyond a war’s end.

2018: Jill Lepore 

Professor of American History at Harvard University, Jill Lepore is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and the author of several prize-winning books, including The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014). 

2017: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-one books and created fifteen documentary films, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its third season on PBS. 

2016: Dr. Abraham Verghese 

Author of three award-winning books whose name is frequently a byline in newspapers and magazines worldwide, Dr. Abraham Verghese is Vice Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the School of Medicine at Stanford University. In 2009, his novel, Cutting for Stone, was published and quickly became an international bestseller. Dr. Verghese's continued emphasis on patient-physician relationships in an era of increased use of medical technology has made him a highly sought-after speaker and TEDTalk presenter. Dr. Verghese's writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. 

2015: Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle, a professor, author and licensed clinical psychologist, has spent the last 30 years researching the psychology of people’s relationships with technology and, in particular, how technology is shaping our modern relationships—with others, with ourselves, with it. Turkle, often described as “the Margaret Mead of digital culture,” offers a unique perspective on technology and social interaction, and on the psychological dimensions of technological change. Her work investigates the intersection of digital technology and human relationships, from the early days of personal computers to the present world of robotics, artificial intelligence, social networking and mobile connectivity. 

2014: Elaine Pagels

Religion scholar and author Elaine Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community known for having forever changed the historical landscape of the Christian religion by exploding the myth of the early Church as a unified movement. Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University where she has taught since 1982. The recipient of Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Fellowships, her impressive body of work has earned international acclaim.

2013: Kwame Anthony Appiah

Called a post-modern Socrates, Kwame Anthony Appiah asks profound questions about identity and ethics in a world where the sands of race, ethnicity, religion and nationalism continue to realign and reform before our eyes. His seminal book Cosmopolitanism is a moral manifesto for a world where identity has become a weapon and where difference has become a cause of pain and suffering. In his latest book, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, Appiah argues that honor and morality are two separate entities, and that social reform stems more from evolving notions of honor than a true understanding of morality. In intellectually stimulating language, Appiah challenges readers to look beyond the boundaries—real and imagined—that divide us, and to see our common humanity.

Appiah is the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. He is also the president of the PEN American Center, the internationally acclaimed literary and human rights association. He was born in London to a Ghanaian father and a white mother; raised in Ghana; and educated in England, at Cambridge University, where he received a PhD in philosophy. As a scholar of African and African-American studies, he established himself as an intellectual with a broad reach. His classic book In My Father's House and his collaborations with Henry Louis Gates Jr.—including The Dictionary of Global Culture and Africana—are major works of African struggles for self-determination. He is a 2012 National Humanities Medal winner, and in 2007, Cosmopolitanism won the Arthur Ross Book Award, the most significant prize given to a book on international affairs. In 2009, he was featured in the documentary Examined Life, and was named one of Foreign Policy's Top 100 public intellectuals.

2012: Jerome Groopman, MD and Pamela Hartzband, MD

Groopman, an oncologist, is the Dina and Raphael Recanati Chair of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of experimental medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Hartzband is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and an attending physician in the Division of Endocrinology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They have collaborated on articles for The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and the New England Journal of Medicine. Groopman’s prior book, 2007 best-seller How Doctors Think is required reading for all Case Western Reserve medical school students.

Groopman and Hartzband will present an entirely new way to make the best medical decisions. They reveal that each of us has a “medical mind,” a highly individual approach to weighing the risks and benefits of treatment. Are you a minimalist or a maximalist, a believer or a doubter, do you look for natural healing or the latest technology? They explain how pitfalls in thinking and the way statistics are presented can mislead both patients and doctors.  
After hearing the Callahan Distinguished  lecture, the audience will understand how to arrive at medical choices that serve them best.

2010: Henry Petroski

Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. He has written broadly on design, success, failure and the history of engineering and technology, and lectured on these topics to audiences around the world.

In his 15 books, Petroski has explored large topics (such as ideas and bridges) in titles like To Engineer is Human, Design Paradigms, and Engineers of Dreams, and found smaller foci in The Pencil, The Toothpick and The Evolution of Useful Things. His memoir, Paperboy, tells his story of delivering newspapers in the 1950s and what predisposed him to becoming an engineer. His most recent book, The Essential Engineer, examines how engineering and science relate in dealing with global problems. His essays have been featured many newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal. He writes regular columns for the American Scientist and ASEE Prism magazines, and has discussed engineering and other topics on radio and television.

His honors include the Washington Award from the Western Society of Engineers, the History and Heritage Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Ralph Coats Roe Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Petroski has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, four honorary degrees, and distinguished alumnus awards from Manhattan College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has also been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

2009: E.O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson is a legendary biologist and is widely considered to be the father of the modern environmental movement. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the rich spectrum of the earth's biodiversity.

Wilson's works include Ants and On Human Nature, which both won the Pulitzer Prize; The Future of Life, which offers a plan for saving Earth's biological heritage; Consilience, which draws together the sciences, humanities, and the arts into a broad study of human knowledge; The Creation, a plea for science and religion to work together to save the planet; andFrom So Simple a Beginning, a collection of the four seminal works of Darwin, with new introductions by Wilson. His latest book, 2008's The Superorganism, was hailed by the New York Times as "an astonishing account of the intricate and unexpected swarm intelligence of wasps, bees, ants and termites."

Wilson's latest project, The Encyclopedia of Life Web site, catalogs all key information about life on Earth, including data about every living species. Wilson is the recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Crafoord Prize (a sister to the Nobel), and the Audubon Medal. He is the Pellegrino University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, and continues to conduct research at the Museum of Comparative Zoology.

2008: Kay Redfield Jamison

An international authority and researcher on mood disorders and a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, Kay Redfield Jamison has unique insight into the world of mental illness.

She has been there herself.

Jamison has published over 100 articles in academic journals and has authored or co-authored five books. She is co-author of the standard medical textbook on manic-depression. Jamison's rigorous yet compassionate approach is an offshoot of her own journey from suffering to sharing. She offered a powerful message of hope to those who most need it.

2007: Lisa Randall

Lisa Randall is one of the world's leading physicists and is among the most cited scientists of our time. Her book, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, brings her quest to explain the very fabric of reality-via string theory-to a broad readership.

A professor of theoretical physics at Harvard University, Randall's book takes readers into the incredible world of warped, hidden dimensions that underpin the universe we live in. Randall demystifies the science and beguilingly unravels the mysteries of the myriad worlds that may exist just beyond the one we are only now beginning to know.

Randall was the first tenured woman in the Princeton physics department and the first tenured woman theoretical physicist at MIT and Harvard. She is the winner of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award. In 2006, she received the Klopsted Award from the American Society of Physics Teachers and was featured in Newsweek's "Who's Next in 2006" issue.

2006: Jared M. Diamond

Jared M. Diamond is an American author, evolutionary biologist, physiologist, and biogeographer. Best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Guns, Germs, and Steel (1998), which explores the geographic, cultural, environmental, and technological factors which have led to domination of Western culture in the world and argues for a new kind of history based on science that can make predictions rather than merely describing "one damn fact after another."

Diamond spoke about his most recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2004) on Wednesday, March 1, 2006 beginning at 5 p.m. in Severance Hall. Collapse examines what caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin and considers what contemporary society can learn from their fates.

In addition to being a renowned author, Diamond is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the so-called "Genius Award") as well as research prizes from the American Physiological Society and the National Geographic Society. He has been elected a member of all three of the leading national scientific/academic honorary societies, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

2005: Stephen Pinker

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and a world-renowned linguist and cognition expert. He delivered the first in Case Western Reserve University's annual Distinguished Lecture Series on March 14, 2005.

Pinker is best known for his books on language: The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997) and Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. In 2002 he published The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, which explored the political, moral and emotional colorings of human nature. He is a three-time winner of the William James Book Prize.

A native of Montreal, Pinker holds a B.A. in experimental psychology from McGill University and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1982-2003, when he moved to Harvard.