Indiana State University Newsroom

Actor, activists, political figures, boxer on Speakers Series line-up

August 7, 2014

Actor, director, producer and author Henry Winkler will kick off this year's Indiana State University Speakers Series.

Other speakers scheduled to appear throughout the coming school year are Rebecca Skloot, author of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks;" former U.S. energy secretary Steven Chu; political strategist David Axelrod; Star Parker, founder and president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education; and boxing legend and entrepreneur "Sugar Ray" Leonard.

"This promises to be one of the strongest Speakers Series in the program's 35-year history," said Nancy Rogers, associate vice president for experiential learning and community engagement. "The primary goal of the series is community outreach - inviting people to join the campus community for an informative and entertaining evening."

Winkler's portrayal of Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli on the popular situation comedy "Happy Days" made him one of the most recognizable actors in the world, but he has also achieved success as a director, producer and author.

During his 10 years on Happy Days, the Yale-trained Winkler won two Golden Globe Awards and was nominated three times for an Emmy. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the leather jacket his character wore has hung in The Smithsonian since 1980.

In 2010, Winkler joined the cast of the USA Network series, Royal Pains, as Eddie R. Lawson. He also joined the ensemble cast of Cartoon Network's first live-action comedy, Children's Hospital. He plays hospital administrator, Sy Mittleman. He has also played Captain Hook at the New Wimbledon Theatre in London and the Milton Keyes Theatre in Woking, England.

Winkler also writes children's novels with his partner, Lin Oliver. His books were inspired by learning challenges he encountered during his education.

"I had trouble reading books, so I never imagined I could write one," he said.

Winkler has worked to bring awareness and support to children who learn differently by advocating for changes in the educational system and informing parents and teachers about learning challenges.

Winkler will speak at Indiana State on Sept. 9. All University Speakers Series presentations are scheduled for 7 p.m. in Tilson Auditorium. Admission is free.

Bestselling author Rebecca Skloot uncovered the truth about Henrietta Lacks, a young black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951, leaving a line of cells harvested without her consent. Her cells contributed to scientific advancements as varied as the polio vaccine, treatments for cancers and viruses and in-vitro fertilization. Her children were later used in research without their consent and have never benefited from the commercialization of their mother's cells.

Skloot has written more than 200 feature articles, personal essays, book reviews, and news stories and was named one of Five Surprising Leaders of 2010 by The Washington Post. She will speak Oct. 20.

Chu, the first Nobel laureate to serve as U.S. energy secretary (2009-13) offers insight on America's energy future and how advances in science are the key to identifying and using cleaner energy sources. His research focus transformed the Energy Department by bringing science to the forefront of America's clean energy policy. President Obama tasked Chu to use his scientific skills to assist BP in stopping the massive Gulf oil leak and to help the government of Japan in dealing with the tsunami-damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactors. Chu's presentation is set for Nov. 5.

Axelrod served as senior advisor to President Obama and a strategist for his campaigns. He is director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. He was the founder and senior partner at AKPD Message and Media, where he managed media strategy and communications for more than 150 local, state and national campaigns, with a focus on progressive candidates and causes. Axelrod spent eight years as a reporter for The Chicago Tribune, where he covered national, state and local politics.

Active in charitable work in Chicago, Axelrod has supported Special Olympics and Misericordia, a home for persons with development disabilities. He and his wife Susan helped found Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), which has raised more than $26 million for scientists searching for a cure. Axelrod's University Speakers Series visit is scheduled for Feb. 5.

Parker heads a non-profit think tank which promotes market based public policy to fight poverty. She had seven years of first-hand experience with welfare dependency. A conservative crusader who spoke at the 1996 Republican National Convention and has debated Jesse Jackson, she brings new energy to discussions on how to transition America's poor from government dependency. She has received numerous awards and commendations for her work on public policy issues. Star's visit to Indiana State is scheduled for March 25.

Leonard, one of the legendary sports icons of the 20th century, is among the most sought after motivational speakers in the world. His speech, "POWER" (Prepare, Overcome and Win Every Round) is consistently booked with Fortune 500 companies. His autobiography "The Big Fight: My Life in an Out of the Ring" reveals the complex man behind the boxer.

The Olympic hero and six-time champion battled depression, rage, addiction and greed. In his book, Leonard comes to terms with both triumph and struggle and presents a gripping portrait of strength, courage and resilience, both in and out of the ring.

In 2013, Leonard debuted a new contemporary athletic men's clothing collection. Through his online community, he connects with fans through the sport of boxing, general fitness and philanthropy. His Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation helps fight diabetes and child obesity. Leonard will speak April 7.


Photo: - Henry Winkler

Photo: - Steven Chu

Photo: - Sugar Ray Leonard

Media contact: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or