Speaker Series

Recent Notable Speakers at Asheville School:

Dr. Christine Darden

NASA Pioneer Dr. Christine Darden, who is featured in Margot Lee Shetterly's best-seller "Hidden Figures," was hired at NASA in 1967 as a Computer/Data Analyst, and over the course of her career became the first African-American woman promoted into the Senior Executive Service at the NASA Langley Research Center. Darden earned two NASA Medals--one for her work and leadership of the Sonic Boom Program, and the other for her active involvement in working with and encouraging students to pursue careers in math and science.

U.S. Congressman John Lewis

John Lewis has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1986. He is widely recognized as an icon of the Civil Rights Movement—having pivotal roles as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), as a speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington and during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. His efforts to fight for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, hastened the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Dr. Frances Jensen

An internationally known expert in neurology and the teenage brain. Jensen co-authored “The Teenage Brain,” which offers a neuroscientist’s approach to raising adolescents and young adults, and she is the chair of neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Jensen has spoken at TEDMED, the Boston Science Museum and The Franklin Institute. She has been interviewed on CBS' “60 Minutes,” NBC's “Today Show,” and NPR's “All Things Considered,” and “Fresh Air.”

Amity Shlaes

An author and college professor. Shlaes has written four New York Times bestsellers: “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression,” “The Forgotten Man: Graphic,” a full length illustrated version of the same book drawn by Paul Rivoche, “Coolidge,” a full-length biography of the 30th president and “The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy.”

Art Spiegelman

Pulitzer Prize winning comic artist and editor who was a staff writer and artist for The New Yorker.


Sarah Vowell

An American author, journalist, essayist, social commentator and actress. Often referred to as a "social observer," Vowell has written six nonfiction books on American history and culture, most recently "Unfamiliar Fishes," which was published in 2011. She was a contributing editor for the radio program "This American Life" on Public Radio International from 1996 to 2008, where she produced numerous commentaries and documentaries and toured the country in many of the program's live shows. She was also the voice of Violet in the animated film "The Incredibles."

David Brooks

One of the most intriguing, entertaining, and insightful writers and political thinkers of our time. Brooks is a keen observer of the American way of life and a savvy analyst of present-day politics and foreign affairs. His main areas of expertise include American politics, foreign affairs, the Obama presidency, and American society. Brooks has written two books of what he calls “comic sociology,” which are descriptions of how we live as Americans: "Bobos in Paradise" and "On Paradise Drive." "Bobos in Paradise" was a New York Times bestseller.

Ann Patchett

An American author who received the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002 for her novel "Bel Canto." Patchett's other novels include "Run," "The Patron Saint of Liars," "Taft," "State of Wonder," and "The Magician's Assistant," which was shortlisted for the Orange Prizes. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Nashville Banner Tennessee Writer of the Year Award in 1994.

Buzz Bissinger

An American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Bissinger is best known for his non-fiction book "Friday Night Lights." He is a longtime contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine and the former host of "The Buzz Bissinger Show" on CBS Radio's Philadelphia Talk/News station, Talk Radio 1210 (WPHT-AM).

James Bradley

Author of best-selling book, "Flags of Our Fathers." "Flags of Our Fathers" is about the six American soldiers who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima, pictured in the now iconic photograph and Iwo Jima memorial. One of the soldiers was Bradley's father, John Bradley.

David Quammen

Author of "Spillover," Quammen has written 11 books and published hundreds of nonfiction pieces in Esquire, Outside, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, and Harper’s. He has been honored with an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a three-time recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Henry Petroski

The Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. Petroski is the author of "The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship," which looks critically at one man’s approach to design and construction and celebrates his unique achievement.

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco was selected by President Barack Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, and he is the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Blanco was born in Spain to Cuban exiled parents and raised in Miami, Florida. His work grapples with themes of cultural identity, community and belonging.

Margaret Edson

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play "Wit," and called "the Harper Lee of playwrights," by the New York Times, Margaret Edson is a playwright and long-time public school teacher and administrator.


U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows

Mark Meadows has served as a U.S. Representative of North Carolina's 11th Congressional District since 2013. Meadows is the chair of the House Freedom Caucus.

Sally Kohn and Tara Setmayer

Kohn is a columnist for the Daily Beast known for her progressive views. She is ranked by Mediaite as one of the 100 most influential pundits on television and by the Advocate as the 35th most influential LGBT person in the media. Kohn has worked as a contributor to Fox News and has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Magazine, USA Today and other outlets. Setmayer, also a columnist for the Daily Beast, is a noted conservative. She is a former communications director on Capitol Hill and has appeared on outlets that include Fox News, HBO, CNN, C-SPAN, The Wall Street Journal and NPR.

Hari Kondabolu

A Brooklyn-based comedian who has done standup on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and has been profiled on NPR's Fresh Air.


Maira Kalman

An American illustrator, writer, artist, and designer. Her work most widely held in WorldCat libraries is "Fireboat: the heroic adventures of the John J. Harvey," a picture book she both wrote and illustrated. It won the annual Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction in 2003.

Jonah Goldberg

Founding editor of National Review Online, Goldberg is one of the most prominent and accomplished young conservative journalists today.


Peter Beinart

A Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, and associate professor of journalism and political science at The City University of New York. Beinart is also senior political writer for The Daily Beast, and a contributor to Time.

Peter Van Buskirk

A staunch advocate for students and parents throughout the college application process, Buskirk draws on his 25-plus years of leadership in college admission to present dynamic, student-centered messaging that cuts through the institutional rhetoric. Each year, he gives direction to tens of thousands of college-bound students worldwide as they navigate the increasingly complex and unpredictable college admission process.

Nathaniel Philbrick

Champion sailor, award-winning scholar and bestselling author of the nonfiction classic "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex," which familiarized modern readers with the harrowing true story of Herman Melville’s "Moby-Dick;" the gripping bestseller won the prestigious National Book Award in 2001. More recently Philbrick revisited the bestseller lists with "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War," his fresh take on the Pilgrims’ journey to Plymouth Rock.

Charles London

An award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, and The Baltimore Times.


Coleman Barks

An American poet and former literature faculty member at the University of Georgia. Although he neither speaks nor reads Persian, Barks is nonetheless renowned as an interpreter of Rumi and other mystic poets of Persia.

Dr. Wilkie Wilson

A Professor of Prevention Science at Duke University Medical Center. As a neuropharmacologist, Dr. Wilson has a particular interest in how the brain acquires and stores information. He is a senior research scientist for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and is the author of numerous scientific publications, book chapters and books

Asheville School's Pope Series for Humanities is supported by a grant from the John William Pope Foundation.