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Pulitzer Prize winners, astrophysicist to visit Elon in 2014-15

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the first husband-wife team to win journalism’s highest honor, come to campus in October for Fall Convocation; acclaimed scientist and current “Cosmos” host Neil deGrasse Tyson to speak at Spring Convocation next April.

Elon University welcomes three of the biggest names in their respective fields to campus next year when husband-and-wife Pulitzer Prize-winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and “Cosmos” television host Neil deGrasse Tyson come to campus for convocation programs in October and April, respectively.

Kristof and WuDunn will give the Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture during Fall Convocation on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014, in Alumni Gym. The duo won a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for their New York Times coverage of China’s Tiananmen Square democracy movement and have co-authored three best-selling books.

The October visit will be a return to Elon for Kristof, who was the keynote speaker at Spring Convocation in 2010 when the university installed its chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society.

Exactly six months later, Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and the current host of “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey” on the FOX television network, visits campus to deliver a talk at Spring Convocation on April 2, 2015. Tyson is director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and the author of 10 books.

Tickets for Fall Convocation with Kristof and WuDunn go on sale in September. Tickets for Spring Convocation with Neil deGrasse Tyson, which is part of Elon’s Voices of Discovery lecture series, go on sale in March 2015. More information on acquiring tickets will be made available at the start of the fall semester.

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalists

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof is often called the “reporter’s reporter” for his human rights advocacy.

In 1990, Kristof and WuDunn, then also a New York Times journalist, became the first husband-wife team to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism for their coverage of China’s Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Kristof won his second Pulitzer in 2006 for what the judges called “his graphic, deeply reported columns that, at personal risk, focused attention on genocide in Darfur and that gave voice to the voiceless in other parts of the world.”

Kristof and WuDunn have written three best-selling books: “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”; “China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power”; and “Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia.”

Kristof graduated from Harvard College, Phi Beta Kappa, and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where he studied law and graduated with first class honors. He later studied Arabic in Cairo, Chinese in Taipei, and Japanese in Tokyo.

After working in France, he backpacked in Africa and Asia while writing articles to cover his expenses. Kristof has lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to more than 150 countries. During his travels, he has caught malaria, experienced wars, confronted warlords, encountered an Indonesian mob carrying heads on pikes, and survived an African airplane crash.

After joining The New York Times in 1984, Kristof served as a correspondent in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo. He has covered presidential politics, interviewed everyone from President Obama to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and was the first blogger on The New York Times website.

WuDunn, the first Asian-American reporter to win a Pulitzer Prize, is today a business executive and best-selling author. She currently works with entrepreneurs in new media, media technology and social enterprise at a small investment banking boutique in New York City. She also runs TripleEdge, which focuses on socially driven investing.

WuDunn has been vice president in the role of investment advisor for private clients, in the investment management division at Goldman, Sachs & Co., and a commercial loan officer at Bankers Trust. She also is one of a small handful of people who have worked at The New York Times as both an executive and a journalist: in management roles in both the Strategic Planning and Circulation Sales departments at The Times; as editor for international markets, energy and industry; as The Times’ first anchor of an evening news headlines program for a digital cable TV channel, the Discovery-Times; and as a foreign correspondent for The Times in Tokyo and Beijing, where she wrote about economic, financial, political and social issues.

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement, WuDunn has won other journalism prizes, including the George Polk Award and Overseas Press Club awards. She received a White House Project EPIC award, the Asia Women in Business Corporate Leadership Award, the Pearl S. Buck Woman of the Year Award, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Prize, among numerous other awards.

In 2011, Newsweek cited WuDunn as one of the “150 Women Who Shake the World.” In 2013, she was included as one of the “leading women who make America” in the PBS documentary, “The Makers.”

WuDunn earned an M.P.A. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, where she is a former member of its Advisory Council, and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. She graduated from Cornell University, where she was a member of the Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2013. She is now a member of the Board of Trustees at Princeton University.

Photo courtesy of Roderick Mickens, American Museum of Natural History

Neil deGrasse Tyson
Astrophysicist and science commentator

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium and host of the 21st century reboot of Carl Sagan's landmark television series “Cosmos,” was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University and his doctorate in astrophysics from Columbia University.

Tyson's professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of the Milky Way.

In 2001 Tyson was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the future of the U.S. aerospace industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.

In 2004 Tyson was again appointed by Bush to serve on the nine-member President’s Commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy. This group navigated a path by which the new space vision can become a successful part of the national agenda. In 2006, the head of NASA appointed Tyson to serve on its prestigious Advisory Council, which will help guide NASA through its perennial need to fit its ambitious vision into its restricted budget.

From 1995 to 2005, Tyson was a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine under the title “Universe.” Among Tyson's books is his memoir “The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist” and “Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution,” co-written with Donald Goldsmith.

Two of Tyson's recent books are the playful and informative “Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries,” which was a New York Times bestseller, and “The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet,” chronicling his experience at the center of the controversy over Pluto's planetary status. The PBS/NOVA documentary "The Pluto Files,” based on the book, premiered in March 2010.

For five seasons, beginning in the fall of 2006, Tyson appeared as the on-camera host of PBS-NOVA's spinoff program “NOVA ScienceNOW,” which is an accessible look at the frontier of all the science that shapes the understanding of our place in the universe.

During the summer of 2009 Tyson identified a stable of professional standup comedians to assist his effort in bringing science to commercial radio with the NSF-funded pilot program StarTalk. Now also a podcast, StarTalk Radio combines celebrity guests with informative yet playful banter. Its target audience is all those people who never thought they would, or could, like science.

Tyson is the recipient of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given by NASA to a non-government citizen. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid 13123 Tyson. On the lighter side, Tyson was voted Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by People Magazine in 2000.

In February 2012, Tyson released his 10th book, containing every thought he has ever had on the past, present, and future of space exploration: “Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier.”

Eric Townsend,
4/27/2014 3:40 PM