Overview

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, Barbara Krauthamer and Naima Coster ’04. 
2021-2022 Guest Speaker: Zoe Hitzig ’11, author of Mezzaninem a new collection of poems, and Ph.D. candidate in economics 

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, Shahid Naeem and Celia Divino, P’13.
2021-2022 Guest Speaker: Madeline Ford Ryerson ’10, Lead Engineer at Guild Education
 
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, Marcia Smith and Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes '95.
2020-2021 Guest Speaker: Danielle Holman ’10, Talent Manager at Schmidt Futures
 
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 Stephen Greenblatt and Ibram X. Kendi.
2021-22 Guest Speakers: Two-time Tony Award-winning producer Jill Furman ’86 and award-winning songwriter and performer Shaina Taub 

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.

2021-2022 Guest Speakers: 
  • Tensie Whelan ’78, former President and Founder of the Rainforest Alliance and Environmental Protection Agency
  • Karen O'Brien Cholewka ’91, Environmental Protection Agency engineer 
  • Travis Bradford, P’28, ’33, author of Solar Revolution: The Economic Transformation of the Global Energy Industry
  • Leslie Cagan, climate change activist 
  • Richard Stedman, Chair of the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University 
  • Arjun Murti, Energy Research Analyst and Senior Advisor to the Energy Group at Warburg Pincus

PROGRAM section

Recent Guest Speakers

Sherman Alexie
Author

Stephen Greenblatt
Literary Historian and Author

Gish Jen
Author

Dr. Michio Kaku
Physicist

Jane Kim '95
Civil Rights Attorney, Politician

Tony Kushner
Playwright

Jhumpa Lahiri
Author

Joan R. Mertens '64
Curator

James McBride
Author

John McPhee
Writer

Peggy McIntosh
Feminist, Activist, Scholar

Lynn Nottage
Playwright

Anna Deavere Smith
Playwright, Actor

Carrie Mae Weems
Artist

Jacqueline Woodson
Author

Kenji Yoshino
Legal Scholar