Media figures, classical musician headline 2015-16 cultural programs

Itzhak Perlman, Walter Isaacson, Melissa Harris-Perry and Leonard Pitts visit campus next year for Elon University’s convocations, Winter Term Opening Address and Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture.

Elon University brings some of the biggest names in their fields to campus next year for cultural programs that promote the university’s intellectual climate and recognize student achievement.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. makes a return visit to Elon for September’s Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture. Pitts last appeared on campus in 2009 for a program jointly sponsored by the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and the School of Communications.

In early October, internationally acclaimed violin icon Itzhak Perlman visits for Fall Convocation in Alumni Gym. Perlman has received four Emmy Awards and 16 Grammy Awards and has performed with every major orchestra and at venerable concert halls around the globe.

In January 2016, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry delivers the Winter Term Opening Address in McCrary Theatre. The author of two books serves as executive director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South at Wake Forest University.

Elon then welcomes to campus Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. The former chairman and CEO of CNN, and the former editor of TIME magazine, will headline Spring Convocation, an annual program that recognizes graduating seniors and Elon students who have made the President’s List or Dean’s List during the academic year.

Tickets for Fall Convocation with Perlman, and the Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture with Pitts, will be made available in September. More information on acquiring tickets for Harris-Perry and Isaacson’s visits will be shared early next year.

Leonard Pitts Jr.
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture

Thursday, September 24, 2015
7:30 p.m.
McCrary Theatre

A former writer for Casey Kasem’s radio program “American Top 40,” Leonard Pitts, Jr. was a pop music critic at the Miami Herald where he began writing about race and current affairs in his own column. Today, his Miami Herald newspaper column on pop culture, social issues and family life is syndicated in more than 150 daily newspapers.

Pitts won the top prize for commentary at the Scripps Howard Foundation’s National Journalism Awards in 2002 and, two years later, was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for the same column.

He is also the author of the bestseller “Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood,” a poignant account of the nature and meaning of black fatherhood in the contemporary United States.

Pitts’ column has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, among others. He is a three-time recipient of the National Headliners Award.

Itzhak Perlman
Itzhak Perlman
Fall Convocation

Tuesday, October 6, 2015
3:30 p.m.
​Alumni Gym

One of the only household names in classical music today, Itzhak Perlman enjoys superstar status rarely afforded a classical musician.

Having performed with every major orchestra and at venerable concert halls around the globe, Perlman was granted a Kennedy Center Honor in 2003 by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in celebration of his distinguished achievements and contributions to the cultural and educational life of the United States. In 2009, Perlman took part in the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, premiering a piece written for the occasion by John Williams alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Gabriela Montero, for an audience of nearly 40 million television viewers in the United States and millions more throughout the world.

A major presence in the performing arts on television, Perlman has received four Emmy Awards, including one for the PBS documentary Fiddling for the Future, a film about the Perlman Music Program and his work as a teacher and conductor there. Founded in 1993, the Perlman Music Program offers unparalleled musical training to young string players through intensive summer programs and mentoring.

Perlman has entertained and enlightened millions of television viewers of all ages on popular shows including The Late Show with David Letterman, Sesame Street, The Frugal Gourmet, The Tonight Show and multiple Grammy Awards telecasts. Having garnered 16 Grammy Awards over the years with his best-selling recordings, Perlman was honored in 2008 with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the recording arts.

Born in Israel in 1945, Perlman completed his initial training at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv. Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, Roosevelt, Yeshiva and Hebrew universities are among the institutions which have awarded him honorary degrees. President Ronald Reagan honored him with a “Medal of Liberty” in 1986, and in December 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Perlman the “National Medal of Arts.”

<p>Melissa Harris-Perry (photo credit: Ken Bennett, Wake Forest University)</p>
Melissa Harris-Perry
Winter Term Opening Speaker
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
6 p.m.
McCrary Theatre

Melissa Harris-Perry is the Presidential Endowed Chair in Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University, where she also served as executive director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South.

Harris-Perry is the host of Melissa Harris-Perry, which broadcasts live on MSNBC on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon. She is the author of the the award-winning “Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought,” and “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.”

Harris-Perry received her bachelor’s degree in English from Wake Forest University in 1994 and her doctorate in political science from Duke University in 1999. She also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Harris-Perry previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University and Tulane University.

Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson
Spring Convocation
Thursday, March 31, 2016
3:30 p.m.
Alumni Gym

Walter Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, D.C. He has been the chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine.

Isaacson’s most recent book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” is a biographical tale of the people who invented the computer, Internet and the other great innovations of our time.

He is the author of “Steve Jobs” (2011), “Einstein: His Life and Universe” (2007), “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” (2003), and “Kissinger: A Biography” (1992), and coauthor of “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made” (1986). A graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, Isaacson began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times-Picayune/States-Item. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor and editor of new media before becoming the magazine’s 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003.

Isaacson is chair emeritus of Teach for America and was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasts of the United States, a position he held until 2012. He also is vice-chair of Partners for a New Beginning, a public-private group tasked with forging ties between the United States and the Muslim world.