From the listings desk: Colorado State University-Pueblo just unveiled this year's Distinguished Speaker Series lineup, and as usual, it's quite impressive. Past years brought the likes of Nontombi Naomi Tutu, Sherman Alexie, Meghan McCain, Ray Nagin (and, puzzlingly, Bruce Jenner), and this year continues the trend. Best of all, the lectures are still free and open to the public.
Aug. 22: Jack Hanna, animal celebrity and zookeeper extraordinaire. Hanna revolutionized zoo habitats for animals by transitioning the Columbus Zoo from cage-like enclosures to "habitat environments" during his tenure there as zoo director. Hanna, of course, is also the host of various TV shows, programs and a frequent talk show guest.
Oct. 3: Eric Thomas, a "hip hop preacher" whose experiences growing up in Detroit has lead him to reach out to high-risk students of color. Despite dropping out of high school, Thomas eventually gained his GED and completed a masters degree (he's working on a PhD in educational administration.) Thomas is now a senior minister at A Place of Change Ministries, the founder of Break the Cycle I Dare You, and works at an undergraduate retention program at Michigan State.
Jan. 23: Ray Kurzweil, one of the nation's top inventors, Kurzweil has made huge leaps in communication products, "the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition." He is also a recipient of the coveted $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize and the 1999 National Medal of Technology.
Feb. 20: Angela Davis, a longtime social activist, Davis spent 18 months in jail and was placed on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted List" in the 1970s. Today as an educator, Davis continues to fight for strengthening communities, and thereby working to end "social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination." A scholar and educator, Davis currently teaches at the University of California - Santa Cruz.
March 13: Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science at CSU, Grandin works on the dual fronts of animal welfare and autism advocacy. As a woman with high-functioning autism, Grandin not only invented a "squeeze machine designed to calm hypersensitive people" but lobbies for humane livestock handling processes. Grandin has appeared in: Forbes, The New York Times, and People, as well as NPR and the Today Show. In 2010, HBO released an award-winning semi-autobiographical film about Grandin starring Claire Danes.
For more information on the series, visit colostate-pueblo.edu/StudentActivities/DistinguishedSpeakersSeries