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Distinguished Lecture Series at Sanford

Distinguished Lecture Series

The Sanford School brings a variety of high-profile speakers to Duke each year with the goal of connecting students and faculty to thought leaders. These lectures and events are free and open to the public. Several of our recurring series are supported by endowment funds.

The Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture

Endowed by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, this prestigious lecture – Sanford’s longest-running series – facilitates addresses from “men and women of the highest personal and professional stature, such as presidents, prime ministers and cabinet members, chief executive officers of corporations, visionary artists, and esteemed scholars.”

The lectures are open to the public as well as Duke University students and are meant to  promote engaged and enlightened leadership. They are held in honor of the late Terry Sanford, a bold leader who served as North Carolina governor, U.S. senator, president of Duke University, and founder of our school.

Previous lecturers have included former heads of state, sitting cabinet members, and Pulitzer prize-winning authors. They include William Barber, Dan Blue, Derek Bok, Erskine Bowles, David BrooksThomas L. Friedman, Nikki Haley, Jon Huntsman Jr., Nan Keohane, Joseph Lieberman, Neal Lane, Richard Lugar, Lisa Monaco, Robert McNamara, Janet Napolitano, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Turgut Ozal, Shimon Peres, Tom Perez, Gail Rosseau, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Adam Schiff, Rajeev Shah, Alan Simpson, Shashi Tharoor, Darren Walker and Juan Zarate.


Named for benefactor David M. Rubenstein, a Duke alumnus and chair of Duke’s Board of Trustees, this endowed lecture series brings high-profile thought leaders and policy makers to campus each year. Previous speakers include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; and Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health.

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  • Rev. Barber gesturing

    "Save Our Ship of State"

    Rev. Dr. William Barber II delivered the 2018 Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture. Barber founded the Forward Together Moral Movement that gained national acclaim with the Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013. The protests drew thousands of people calling for the state government to embrace a moral public policy agenda, and resulted in 1,200 arrests. Barber is president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, a coalition of organizations fighting to end systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, environmental destruction and other injustices.

    Watch Rev. Barber's address.

    Watch all of the lectures in the series.

Look at a complete list of Rubenstein Lecture speakers.


Named for benefactor Lester Crown, the lecture was established to bring speakers to Duke to discuss ethical concerns in the arts, sciences, medicine, business and other fields. It was conceived of as a centerpiece in the Sanford School’s efforts to focus student, faculty and public opinion on the critical importance of ethical decision-making in the professions and public life.

Crown is an enterprising businessman, active civic leader and chairman emeritus of Henry Crown and Company. Previous Crown lecturers include Bill Bradley, Jared Diamond, Shirin Ebadi, Marian Wright EdelmanHoward Gardner, Tony Kushner, Paul Rusesabagina, Julian Savulescu, Rebecca Skloot and Jody Williams.

Look at a complete list of Crown Lecture in Ethics speakers.

Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, an international social justice philanthropy with a $13 billion endowment and $600 million in annual grant making. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit's historic bankruptcy and is co-founder and chair of the US Impact Investing Alliance. He delivered the 2020 Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture