Who's speaking at assembly this fall?

Alums, writers, leaders to share life experiences, messages of purpose with Exeter community.

Patrick Garrity
August 28, 2019
Julie Livingston '84, a historian, anthropologist and MacArthur Fellow, will address assembly on Oct. 18.

Julie Livingston '84, a historian, anthropologist and MacArthur Fellow, will address assembly on Oct. 18.

Julie Livingston ’84 didn’t recognize the number buzzing on her cell phone over and over one September day in 2013, so she did what most of us do in that situation. She screened the call.

It wasn’t until she was on her way to the airport after concluding a conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, that the anthropologist and public-health historian got the message: She had been selected as a MacArthur Fellow by the James D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The five-year fellowship, commonly called a “genius grant,” comes with a $625,000 check and no strings attached.

"It’s like Ed McMahon shows up with a cardboard check, only you didn’t even fill out the Publishers Clearing House form," Livingston said of receiving the prestigious grant.

Livingston returns to Exeter on Oct. 18 to speak at assembly and share stories of her “long and bizarre path” from working in a bakery in Boston during graduate school to studying the struggles of patients and doctors alike in a Botswana cancer ward.

Read more about Julie Livingston

Said the foundation in awarding her the grant: “By unflinchingly detailing an over-extended medical infrastructure and the families and health care providers who navigate it, Livingston exposes the limits of biomedicine and the unlikelihood that technology alone will fix health issues in Africa or anywhere else.”


Here are some other speakers scheduled to appear in Assembly Hall during fall term:


Sept. 13
Richard BlancoRichard Blanco, poet and author
Blanco’s work will be very familiar to some of those in the assembly audience. His book The Prince of Los Cocuyos was assigned reading this summer for the class of 2023. Blanco is a formally trained engineer who pursued his lifelong passion for storytelling to become one of the most influential poets of his generation. In 2013, he became the fifth poet to read at a U.S. presidential inauguration. Read more about Richard Blanco




Sept. 27
Ken Ilgunas, author and environmentalistKen Ilgunas
Cross beat poet Jack Kerouac with doomed wanderer Alexander Supertramp of Into the Wild infamy, toss in a masters from Duke, and you might get Ken Ilgunas. The writer and environmentalist first gained attention from his book Walden on Wheels that chronicled his living out of an Econoline van throughout his graduate studies at Duke to minimize student debt. His next book, “Trespassing Across America,” follows his 1,700-mile trek along the route of the Keystone oil pipeline from Alberta to Texas. Read more about Ken Ilgunas


Oct. 1
Courtney Sender, Bennett FellowCourtney Sender, Bennett Fellow
“Do not pity me. It’s true my name is Lilith, known to history as the spurned first wife of Adam. But what story is as simple as a single sentence? He was no bargain, and let’s not imagine he didn’t suffer for the loss of me. That woman Eve — you think she didn’t have a first love, too?” So begins Courtney Sender’s short story Lilith In God’s Hands. Sender, who has taught courses at Yale, Johns Hopkins and the Maryland Institute College of Art, has begun the year-long Bennett Fellowship as she works on her first book. Read more about Courtney Sender


Oct. 4
BK FultonBK Fulton, founder, Soulidifly Productions 
The former telecommunications executive decided to launch a film production company because he wanted to expand a narrative he felt was too narrow. “When I looked at what was being produced, ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ weren’t the norm,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "When you tell the stories of women and minorities, it’s often through a prism of sorrows, a deprivation narrative ... What about the achievement narrative?” Fulton's company produced four full-length feature films in its first year. Read more about BK Fulton.


Oct. 11
Yiannis MonovoukasYiannis Monovoukas P’18, P’22, biomedical pioneer and entrepreneur
Monovoukas’ education — a bachelor’s degree from Columbia, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard — prepared him well to take a regional biomedical company and turn it into a global player in regenerative medicine. Monovoukas’ leadership at TEI Biosciences resulted in the company’s $300 million sale in 2015, which in turn has led him to further venture investing that is pushing the envelope of biomedicine. He will address assembly during Family Weekend.



Oct. 25
D. Michael ShaferD. Michael Shafer ’71, founder, World Heart Foundation
Shafer spent 30 years teaching college students about the international political economy of development. At 55, he “decided it was time to put theory into practice,” in his words. In 2008, he and his wife Evelind founded Warm Heart Foundation, a community-development nonprofit based in the poorest reaches of Thailand. For living and sharing the highest principles of non sibi, Shafer is the 2019 recipient of the John Phillips Award. Read more about D. Michael Shafer