Distinguished Speakers & Artists Series

The schedule for the 2018-19 season will become available in September.

2017-18 School Year Series

Our Distinguished Speaker Series continues to bring stimulating programs with a wide range of engaging speakers. The list of speakers visiting Penn Charter in the first half of this academic year appears below. We welcome and seek to accommodate alumni, parents and friends who have an interest in attending a particular presentation. Please call our receptionist (215-844-3460) in advance to confirm space, dates and times.

September 15, 2017
Adam F. Goldberg OPC '94

Adam F. Goldberg is the creator and showrunner of the popular sitcom The Goldbergs, which will begin its fifth season on ABC this fall. The show is based off Goldberg’s experiences as a high school student at Penn Charter. His career as a writer can be traced all the way back to PC, where he won the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival at age 15. From Penn Charter, Goldberg went on to study film and writing at New York University, graduating in 1998. He got his start writing for the comedy series Still Standing in 2003 and also co-created and executive produced the show Breaking In, which aired on Fox from 2011-12. In addition to his television work, Goldberg has also written for films and theatre, and his many plays have been performed at The Walnut Street Theatre, the Sundance Playwrights Lab, the Illusion Theatre, The Greenwich Street Theatre and Saint Marks Theatre, the Tada! Theatre and Joseph Papp Theatre, among others. PC visit: Middle and Upper School assembly.

October 2, 2017
Patty Wipfler

Patty Wipfler founded the non-profit Parents Leadership Institute in 1989, now Hand in Hand Parenting. The focus of Wipfler’s work has been teaching listening and leadership skills to parents. As the founder and director of Hand in Hand Parenting, Wipfler is a writer, speaker and trainer of parent leaders. As director of Hand in Hand, she authored the Listening to Children series and more than 60 articles on the benefits of this type of parenting. Hand in Hand has sold more than 800,000 copies of Listening to Children (now published as Parenting by Connection) in English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. Wipfler directed The School, a non-profit parent co-operative preschool in Palo Alto, California, and also directed the Neighborhood Infant Toddler Center in Palo Alto. She is the leader of more than 400 parenting workshops and has served as a keynote speaker at Association for the Education of Young Children conventions in Philadelphia and Chicago. PC visit: Penn Charter parents.

October 6, 2017
Mahzarin Banaji

Since 2002, Mahzarin Banaji has served as Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology. She also serves as the first Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, as well as the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Chair in Human Dynamics at the Santa Fe Institute. The recipient of the Carol and Ed Diener Award for Outstanding Contributions to Social Psychology, Banaji is the co-author of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, published with Anthony Greenwald in 2013. Banaji primarily studies feeling and thinking as they unfold in social settings, focusing on mental systems in implicit or unconscious mode. Banaji’s current research centers on the origins of social cognition to improve decisions and organizational policies. Prior to her time at Harvard, Banaji was a professor of psychology at Yale University from 1986-2002. PC visit: Lower, Middle and Upper School faculty.

October 6, 2017
Lee Mun Wah

Lee Mun Wah is a Chinese American documentary filmmaker, author, poet, educator, community therapist and master of diversity training. He was a counselor and resource specialist in the San Francisco United School District for more than 25 years before transitioning to a consultant for private schools with a focus on children with learning and behavioral issues. Now he serves as Executive Director of Stirfry Seminars & Consulting, a diversity training organization that offers educational resources and related workshops. In 1995, Mun Wah’s life and career was turned into a one-hour special by Oprah Winfrey, seen by more than 15 million viewers worldwide. PC visit: Lower, Middle and Upper School faculty.



November 8, 2017
Gyasi Ross

Gyasi Ross is an author, lawyer, musician, television personality and Native American activist. He comes from the Blackfeet Nation and is a resident of the Port Madison Indian Reservation near Seattle, Wash. Ross regularly offers his wisdom to print and online publications, as well as television and radio programs, on topics including politics, sports, pop culture and their intersection with Native American culture. Ross is the author of Don’t Know Much About Indians (But I Wrote a Book About Us Anyway), published in 2011, and How to Say I Love You in Indian in 2014. He’s appeared as a guest on MSNBC and ESPN, his written work has appeared in Deadspin, Gawker and the Huffington Post, and he hosts a weekly podcast, Breakdances with Wolves – Indigenous Pirate Radio, which is available on Soundcloud and iTunes. PC visit: Assemblies, parent sessions, class visits with Lower, Middle and Upper Schools.


November 21, 2017
Robert Gosende

Ambassador Robert Gosende Penn Charter Hubben Lecture

Ambassador Robert Gosende is the John W. Ryan Fellow in Public Diplomacy at the University at Albany/SUNY. Gosende was the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia at the height of the humanitarian crisis in 1992-93. He served for 36 years in the Foreign Service, U.S. Information Agency and the U.S. Department of State. Gosende is the recipient of Presidential Awards from George W. Bush and William J. Clinton for his service. Gosende will speak about his friend Hendrik Willem van der Merwe, a South African Quaker who played a key role in helping to end apartheid in South Africa.  PC visit: Hubben Lecture to faculty and staff.


January 25, 2018
Ken Young OPC '68 

Ken Young OPC '68 began his own food service company in 1985 and has owned a number of companies specializing in the stadium business. He has coordinated and supervised the food, beverage and novelty services of Super Bowls, World Series, the 1984 summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and political conventions. He is currently executive chairman of Spectra Food Services and Hospitality, owned by Comcast Spectacor of Philadelphia.

Young is owner or co-owner of four Minor League Baseball teams, serves on the Board of Trustees of Minor League Baseball, was honored as Alumni Fellow by Pennsylvania State University, and was named Minor League Executive of the year by Baseball America in 2009. He has raised almost $900,000 in charitable fund-raising through the Super Bowl and the College National Championship Game. PC visit: Downtown Reception keynote speaker; Upper School classroom visits.

January 31, 2018
Ana Homayoun

Ana Homayoun Penn Charter Distinguished SpeakerAna Homayoun is an author, school consultant, speaker, educator and teen expert. She is the author of three books: That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life (2010); The Myth of the Perfect Girl: Helping Our Daughters Find Authentic Success and Happiness in School and Life (2012); and Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World (2017), all designed to motivate legions of teens and young adults, as well as their parents. Homayoun is a graduate of Duke University and holds a master's in counseling and Pupil Personnel Services Credential. PC visit: Presentations to Middle and Upper Schools, parents.


February 14, 2018
Richard Downie

Richard Downie CFR CSIS Penn Charter Distinguished SpeakerRichard Downie is deputy director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He advises policy makers on issues related to politics, economics and other trends in Africa. Downie previously worked for the BBC as a journalist in the region and has researched and written for Freedom House, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Council on Foreign Relations. He earned his B.A. in modern history from Oxford University and a master's degree in international public policy from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. PC Visit: Upper School classes, activities and faculty sessions. 



February 20, 2018
George O’Connor

George OConnor Penn Charter Author in ResidenceGeorge O’Connor is an author, illustrator and cartoonist. He is best known for his critically acclaimed, New York Times-bestselling series Olympians, which re-tells classic Greek myths in graphic novel format. So far, O’Connor has published 10 of the 12 planned Olympians comics, with the series beginning in 2010. He is also the bestselling author of Kapow!, his first picture book, published in 2007. O’Connor has also worked on the graphic novels Journey into Mohawk Country (2006) and Ball Peen Hammer (2009). PC visit: Lower School Author in Residence.



February 27, 2018
Minding Your Mind: Jenna DiLossi and Jordan Burnham

Minding Your Mind provides mental health education to students, parents and educators, including first-person accounts of dealing with anxiety and depression, and how to recognize warning signs. Jenna DiLossi specializes in the treatment of eating disorders and cognitive-behavioral therapy. She co-founded the Center for Hope & Health, LLC., a treatment center for eating disorders and anxiety disorders. She earned two MS degrees and a doctor of psychology from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Saint Joseph’s University.


Jordan Burnham is a nationally recognized mental health advocate. In 2008 he addressed a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. In 2010 he was chosen as one of the “Best of Philly” for his work in public speaking and advocacy. In 2012 he was honored with an Emerging Humanitarian Award from retired San Francisco 49ers player Nnamdi Asomugha and the Asomugha Foundation. PC visit: Evening program for parents and students in grades 7-12; 6:00 pm; Meeting Room.



March 14, 2018
Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Erica Armstrong Dunbar Penn Charter Distinguished SpeakerErica Armstrong Dunbar is a writer, historian and lecturer, serving as the Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University. She also serves as Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Armstrong Dunbar is the author of two books: A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City, published in 2008; and Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge, published in 2017. Armstrong Dunbar, educated at a Quaker school, attended the University of Pennsylvania and received a BA in History and Afro-American Studies. She received both her master's and doctorate at Columbia University, and has committed herself to telling stories of slavery, racial injustice and gender inequality, mostly involving African American women. PC visit: Presentation to parents 6:30 p.m., Gummere Library.


April 9, 2018
Matt Bellace

Matt Bellace Penn Charter Distinguished SpeakerMatt Bellace partners with Be a Part of the Conversation, an organization that addresses substance use, misuse and addiction and the impact those have on individuals and their families with the mission to build a culture of awareness and support, and to provide skills and resources to families. Bellace, is a psychologist and comedian who speaks to students, parents, teachers and in the workplace offering a positive, science-based and entertaining approach to substance abuse prevention. Bellace earned a Ph.D. in clinical neuropsychology from Drexel University. PC visit: Upper School students and parents.

April 18, 2018
Amy Gadsden P '23, '27

Amy Gadsden is a Penn Charter Overseer and parent. She is the executive director of Penn Global, and previously the associate dean of Penn Law at the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked for the International Republican Institute as the China country director, and as an advisor on China issues for the U.S. Department of State. Gadsden earned a BA from Yale College and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in Chinese Legal History. PC visit: Cum Laude Assembly.