Lecture Series


The American Experience Distinguished Lecture Series 

Late Pitt scholar Robert G. Hazo created the American Experience program over 50 years ago to offer Pittsburgh’s mid-to-high-level managers the opportunity to gain insight into political and economic thought with the intent of enlightening the public’s political discourse. The program’s current director is Mark Nordenberg, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh, and director of the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy and the Institute of Politics. The series focuses on political and economic issues and has featured addresses by such internationally renowned speakers as Pat Buchanan, Paul R. Ehrlich, Bruce Babbitt, Judy Woodruff, Dick Thornburgh, Mark Nordenberg, and the late John Kenneth Galbraith. Read here about past lecturers during the American Experience Lecture's history.

The Thornburgh Family Lecture Series on Disability Law & Policy

The Thornburgh Family Lecture Series on Disability Law and Policy is sponsored by the Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy. The series was created through the generosity of Dick and Ginny Thornburgh as 2003 recipients of the $50,000 Henry B. Betts Award. The fund has been supplemented by grants from the Office of the Chancellor and assistance from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences,  the School of Law, the Office of Disability Resources and Services, and the David C. Frederick Honors College.


No mission of Dick and Ginny Thornburgh’s is more important than expanding public understanding, institutional services and protections, and political voice of people with disabilities.  The impacts across our nation are well known and far-reaching. Many Americans are touched themselves with a disability, a chronic condition or are closely acquainted with such a person. Not least among those affected are the many brave soldiers wounded in our battles abroad.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed on July 26, 1990.  Please click here to watch the video of this history making ceremony.

The annual lectures are free, open-to-the-public events that draw a large and diverse audience of students, professors, attorneys, advocates, community leaders, and national spokespersons for the rights of people with disabilities.

 Previous speakers have included:

  • Peter Blanck, then Charles M. and Marion Kierscht Professor of Law and a professor of psychology and public health at the University of Iowa
  • Judy Heumann, former Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education
  • Ruth Colker, Heck Faust Memorial Chair in Constitution Law at the Michael E. Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University
  • I. King Jordan, former president, Gallaudet University
  • Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
  • Andrew Imparato, former CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities and Senior Counsel and Disability Policy Director to Senator Harkin. 
  • Jonathan Young, Appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the Chair for the National Council on Disability.
  • Joyce Bender, CEO and president of Bender Consulting Services, Inc. and immediate past chair of the board of the American Association of People with Disabilities and immediate past-chair of the national Epilepsy Foundation.
  • Thomas J. Ridge, Chairman of the National Organization on Disability, former Governor of Pennsylvania, and Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • Mark Johnson, Director of Advocacy, The Shepherd Center
  • L'Arche, USA, L'Arche communities provide homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers; create inclusive communities of faith and friendship; and transform society through relationships that cross social boundaries.
  • Rory Cooper, Director of the Human Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Kathleen Smith-Bell, Volunteer for Canine Partners for Life and SCI Somerset Puppy Program.
  • Ted Kennedy, Jr., Chair of the Board of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).
  • Bob Casey, U.S. Senator

The Discussions on Governance Lecture Series

Established in 2013, the "Discussions on Governance" lecture series brings an array of speakers to the University of Pittsburgh campus to share their expertise in a variety of subject matters.

Subject matters may include:

  • The structure and operation of federal, state, and local government
  • Ethics and integrity in the governance of public and private organizations
  • The rule of law and law enforcement
  • International affairs including the role of the United Nations
  • Issues relating to persons with disabilities
  • Commitment to public service
  • Legal representation for the underpriviledged
  • State and federal roles in economic development
  • State system of higher education
  • Human services and welfare reform
  • Issues relating to the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Changing political landscape / campaigns
  • Nuclear Energy and Emergency Management: the Lessons of Three Mile Island
  • Famous American Leader biographical presentations
In the photo above: Dick Thornburgh shakes the hand of guest speaker Ted Kennedy, Jr.