Each year, distinguished speakers—renowned scientists, artists, authors, poets, politicians, environmentalists and activists—open new pathways to learning through lectures, presentations and class visits in the Upper School.  
Margaret Scolari Barr Lecture

In honor of its 25th Reunion in 1989, the Class of 1964 established the Margaret Scolari Barr Lecture in recognition of her contribution to arts education and in appreciation for her distinguished career at Spence. This annual lecture is dedicated to the visual arts. Past speakers have included Joan Mertens ’64, Emily F. Braun and Ira Spar.
2021-2022 Guest Speaker: Dr. Ian Wardropper, Director, The Frick Collection.

Courtney Steel ’87 Visiting Author Program

This lecture was established to honor and remember Courtney Steel ’87 by her parents, family and friends. This annual lecture brings a writer of national stature to the School each year, in recognition of Courtney’s passion for literature, gift for writing and respect for the nuances of language. Past authors have included Jacqueline Woodson, James McBride and Barbara Krauthamer.
2020-2021 Guest Speaker: Naima Coster ’04, 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction finalist for Halsey Street; 2020 5 Under 35 Honoree, The National Book Foundation; and Author of upcoming novel What’s Mine and Yours

Anne Sophie Laumont ’99 Lecture

The Anne Sophie Laumont ’99 Lecture was established in 1998 by Sophie’s parents, family and friends to honor her passion for knowledge, pay homage to her courageous spirit, cherish her legacy and extend the spark of her creativity to future generations of Spence students. Each year, the school honors Sophie’s memory with a lecture in one of the following areas: the arts, literature or the sciences. Past speakers have included Maura McLaughlin, John McPhee and Shahid Naeem. 
2020-2021 Guest Speaker: Celia Divino, P’13, M.D., Chief of the Division of General Surgery, and the Stanley Edelman Professor of Surgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The Mary Frosch Justice and Equity Lecture

Established by the Board of Trustees upon her retirement in 2015, The Mary Frosch Justice and Equity Lecture brings in an annual speaker and salutes Mary’s deep and enduring dedication to equity throughout her more than 30 years of teaching at Spence. Past speakers have included Jane Kim, Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith. 
2020-2021 Guest Speaker: Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes '95, Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Williams College; Former Alumnae Board Member, The Spence School

Head’s Forum

With a goal of examining the complexity around a variety of relevant issues, the Head’s Forum provides a platform for speakers to present multiple sides of an issue in the context of honest and open discussion and debate. The opportunity to experience how experts in a given field grapple with ideas, argue their point of view and support their stance with evidence and examples broadens Grade 11 and 12 students’ vision of the world. Past speakers have included Alexis McGill Johnson, Kenji Yoshino and Stephen Greenblatt. 
2020-21 Guest Speaker: Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award Winner, Author of How to be an Antiracist, contributing writer at The Atlantic and Director, Boston University Center for Antiracist Research

Conference on Civic Engagement 

Spence's Conference on Civic Engagement was established by Head of School Bodie Brizendine to give students a schoolwide learning experience that explores the capacity of individuals to work within complex political systems to impact positive change. This annual event, which is immersive by design, gives students the opportunity to explore a current civics topic through panel discussions with civics experts, interactive workshops led by students, teachers and guest speakers and small-group discussions in advisory teams.

2018-2019 Guest Speakers: 
  • Ursula Bentele, Professor Emerita at Brooklyn Law School who previously represented defendants at trial and on appeal at The Legal Aid Society Criminal Defense Division 
  • Alysia Santo, writer for the Marshall Project known for her investigative reporting on the criminal justice system
  • Adam Foss, executive director and founder of Prosecutor Impact, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to “stem mass incarceration”
  • The Honorable Peter Krauthamer, a judge appointed by President Barack Obama to the District of Columbia Superior Court in 2011
  • Robin Waters, a security consultant with over 25 years of law enforcement service with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office
  • Sharon White-Harrigan, the Women's Prison Association’s Hopper Home Residence Clinical Director who was formerly incarcerated and has worked in the criminal justice, domestic violence, mental health and substance abuse fields

PROGRAM section

Recent Guest Speakers

Sherman Alexie

Stephen Greenblatt
Literary Historian and Author

Gish Jen

Dr. Michio Kaku

Jane Kim '95
Civil Rights Attorney, Politician

Tony Kushner

Jhumpa Lahiri

Joan R. Mertens '64

James McBride

John McPhee

Peggy McIntosh
Feminist, Activist, Scholar

Lynn Nottage

Anna Deavere Smith
Playwright, Actor

Carrie Mae Weems

Jacqueline Woodson

Kenji Yoshino
Legal Scholar