Spencer Wells is a leading population geneticist who, as National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, leads the Genographic Project. The scientist, author and documentary filmmaker has dedicated much of his career to studying humankind’s family tree and closing the gaps in knowledge about human migration.
Wells calls the Genographic Project “a dream come true.” The project builds on his earlier work, featured in his book and television program, TheJourney of Man. Wells is working in collaboration with other scientists around the world to capture an invaluable genetic snapshot of humanity before modern-day influences erase it forever.
Wells earned his doctorate at Harvard University and conducted post-doctoral training at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. He is committed to studying genetic diversity in indigenous populations and unraveling age-old mysteries about early human migration.
Paul J. De Muniz | Chief Justice Panel | Friday, Nov. 13
Paul J. De Muniz joined the Oregon Supreme Court in January 2001 and became Oregon's 41st Chief Justice on Jan. 1, 2006. In 2008, he was elected to the board of directors of the Conference of Chief Justices, and is one of eight state chief justices selected to attend a three-year Harvard University Executive Session to study the role of state court leaders.
De Muniz, who graduated from the Willamette University College of Law, has also served on the Judicial Fitness and Disability Commission and the Supreme Court Access to Justice for All Committee. In 2002, he founded a now-flourishing rule-of-law partnership with judicial leaders in Russia's Far East.
Shirley S. Abrahamson has served as chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 1996. She was the first woman to serve on the court when she was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 1976.
Abrahamson, who graduated from the Indiana University Law School, also served as a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She is a past president of the National Conference of Chief Justices and past chair of the board of directors of the National Center for State Courts. She also served as chair of the National Institute of Justice's National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence.
The National Center for State Courts in 2009 gave her the Harry L. Carrico Award for Judicial Innovation for serving as a national leader in safeguarding judicial independence, improving inter-branch relations, and expanding outreach to the public. She received the American Judicature Society's Dwight D. Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence in 2004.
Sue Bell Cobb | Chief Justice Panel | Friday, Nov. 13
Sue Bell Cobb took office as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama in 2007 after serving 12 years on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
Cobb graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1981. As soon as she was admitted to the bar, she was appointed district judge of Conecuh County becoming one of the state’s youngest judges. She was elected twice to that position. She was appointed to serve as an alternate chief judge on the Court of the Judiciary in 1997, and was elected to the court of appeals in 1994.
Cobb received 1996 Public Citizen of the Year award from the Alabama Chapter of the National Social Workers Association, the 1996 NAACP Political Achievement Award from the Conecuh County Branch of the NAACP, the 1995 Montgomery Advertiser Woman of Achievement Award and the 1992 Judicial Conservationist Award of the Alabama Wildlife Federation. She was recently named State Winner of the Bishop Barron State Employee Public Service Award.
John D. Minton Jr. | Chief Justice Panel | Friday, Nov. 13
John D. Minton Jr. was sworn in as Kentucky’s fifth chief justice June 27, 2008 after serving two years as a justice on the state Supreme Court.
Minton, who graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1977, was appointed to the court in July 2006 after a judge retired and was then elected to an eight-year term in November 2006 to represent the Second Supreme Court District, which is comprised of 14 counties in western Kentucky. He had previously served on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and before that served as a circuit court judge in Warren County, Ky., where he served as chief regional judge of the Green River Region.
The Kentucky Bar Association honored Minton with its Outstanding Judge Award in 2003. He led efforts to form the Warren County Drug Court while a circuit judge and was actively involved in continuing judicial education as a longtime member of the Education Committee of the Kentucky Circuit Judges Association.
Jon Meacham | Keynote Speaker | Saturday, Nov. 14
Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winner, editor of Newsweek and author of Franklin and Winston and American Lion, was named “one of the most influential editors in the news magazine business” by The New York Times. Meacham won a Pulitzer Prize this year for American Lion, a biography of Andrew Jackson. A skilled raconteur and eloquent speaker, he understands important issues and events in all of their complexity and how they impact our lives.
As managing editor, Meacham supervised Newsweek’s coverage of politics, international affairs and breaking news, and has written cover stories on politics, religion, guns in America, race and the death of Ronald Reagan. In 2001, he was key in editing the magazine’s coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and oversaw both domestic and international reporting.
Meacham has also written for The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times Book Review and The Washington Post Book World. Before joining Newsweek, Meacham was an editor for two years at The Washington Monthly.
Ben Self | Keynote Speaker | Saturday, Nov. 14
Ben Self is a founding partner of Blue State Digital, a leader in online fundraising, advocacy social networking and constituency development programs for nonprofit organizations, political candidates and causes, and corporations.
During the 2008 election cycle, Self served as the Democratic National Committee technology director and supervised the technology projects of the national party, focusing specifically on the Web site, computer infrastructure, compliance software and national voter file database. In this role, he led projects that entirely revamped the technology of the national party, including a complete replacement of the Web site and the Democratic Party's national voter file (VoteBuilder).
Throughout his career, Self has gained extensive experience in new media technologies, statistical data analysis, data warehousing, database architecture and administration, system design and system development.