Charter Lecture Series

Sponsored by the Provost’s Office, the Charter Lecture series was established in 1988 to honor the high ideals expressed in the 1785 charter that made UGA the birthplace of public higher education in America.

2023-2024 Charter Lecture

The lecture will be given by the 2023-2024 Regents' Professors. They were each recognized for the national and international reach of their innovative and pace-setting scholarship.

March 27, 11 a.m.
University Chapel
Calendar: Event listing
Event contact: Stacia Fink
Zoom link:

Diana Downs
Diana Downs

Diana Downs is a 2024 Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Research Professor in the department of microbiology. Downs has made transformative contributions to her field by using genetic analysis to help solve important biochemical mysteries of bacterial life. A key theme of her research is that pulling one thread of metabolism reveals interconnected threads in unexpected ways. Her work has been continually funded for 30 years by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and industry and private foundations. She has published 126 peer-­reviewed papers and has graduated 27 Ph.D. students with five more currently working on their dissertations.

Amanda Murdie
Amanda Murdie

Amanda Murdie is a 2024 Regents’ Professor, Georgia Athletic Association Professor of International Affairs and head of the department of international affairs. Murdie studies international relations, specializing in the behavior of international non-governmental organizations and their interactions with states, local populations and intergovernmental organizations. Most of her work is in the areas of human security, human rights, conflict processes and development. A recent article identified her as one of the top five most productive researchers in the cross-disciplinary field of human rights from 1990 to 2020.

Past Charter Lectures


  • Jenna JambeckDavid P. LandauMichael Terns
    2022-2023 Regents' Professors

    The lecture was given by the 2022-2023 Regents' Professors. They were each recognized for the national and international reach of their innovative and pace-setting scholarship.

    March 30, 1 p.m.
    Zoom webinar: Watch the recording

    Jenna Jambeck

    Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering

    David P. Landau

    Distinguished Research Professor in the department of physics and astronomy and director of the Center for Simulational Physics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

    Michael Terns

    Distinguished Research Professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology and the department of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences


  • John Drake and Claudio Saunt
    John Drake and Claudio Saunt

    Distinguished Research Professor in the Odum School of Ecology and founding director of the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases; Distinguished Research Professor and Russell Professor of American History in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

    April 11, 1 p.m.
    Zoom webinar, watch the recording

    Two leading scholars at the University of Georgia will discuss their individual research programs and their collaboration at the intersection of history and infectious disease during the 2022 Charter Lecture.

    Drake’s research combines evolutionary biology, ecology and epidemiology to develop new quantitative methods that reconcile theory and data, with applications for forecasting the trajectories of epidemics and mapping the distributions of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola and West Nile virus.

    Both Drake and Saunt were named Regents’ Professors this year, an honor bestowed by the board of regents on distinguished faculty whose scholarship or creative activity is recognized both nationally and internationally as innovative and pace-setting.

    The two faculty members are currently collaborating on an interdisciplinary scholarly work on smallpox in early America. The project brings together their expertise in the dynamics of infectious diseases and American history.


Ronald L. Simons

2020 Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Research Professor in the department of sociology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

“Explaining Differences in the Speed of Rate of Biological Aging”

Steven R.H. Beach

2021 Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Research Professor in the department of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

“Family Psychology at UGA”

Pejman Rohani

2020 Regents’ Professor and University of Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Ecology and Infectious Diseases in the Odum School of Ecology and the College of Veterinary Medicine

“Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases”

Diane Marie Amann

2021 Regents’ Professor and the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law in the School of Law

“Nuremberg Women”

Video recording of the 2021 Charter Lectures

Roger C. Hunter

Program Manager, NASA Small Spacecraft Technology

"NASA’s Kepler Mission and Small Spacecraft Technologies: Today and Beyond"


“Hollywood South: The New $9.5 Billion Georgia Industry”


Jeff Stepakoff
Executive Director, Georgia Film Academy


Gale Anne Hurd
Executive Producer, The Walking Dead

Will Packer
Executive Producer, Straight Outta Compton

Lee Thomas
Deputy Commission for Music, Film and Digital Entertainment, Georgia Department of Economic Development


Cynthia Kenyon

Vice President, Aging Research, Calico LLC, Former President, Genetics Society of America

“Aging and the Immortal Germline”


Senator Sam Nunn and Dr. William Perry

CEO, Nuclear Threat Initiative and Former U.S. Secretary of Defense

“Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe In An Age Of Terrorism”


Edward J. Larson

Professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian

“George Washington And America’s Second Revolution”


Charlayne-Hunter Gault

Award-winning journalist and UGA’s first African-American woman graduate (ABJ ’63)

“Reflections on Nelson Mandela”

James R. Clapper

U.S. Director of National Intelligence

“The Importance of Intelligence Integration”


Natasha Trethewey

Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014) and Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University Poetry

"Poetry Reading with Commentary"


Lee R. Lynd

Paul and Joan Queneau Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

“The Sustainable Resource Transition: Systemic Change and Enabling the Improbable”


Paul Begala

Political consultant and commentator

“Show Business for Ugly People: Why Politics Matters”


Robert Hazen

Senior Research Scientist, Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory

“Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origin”


Dennis Dimick

Executive Editor, National Geographic magazine

“Changing Climate: Where Energy and Global Warming Meet”


Kenneth Miller

Professor of biology, Brown University

“God, Darwin, and Design: Thoughts about America’s Continuing Problem with Evolution”


Taylor Branch

Pulitzer prize-winning author and Civil Rights historian

“Democracy in Crisis: Martin Luther King and the Future”


Hanna H. Gray

Former President and Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of History at the University of Chicago

“History: Studying the Unpredictable Past”

Lawrence M. Friedman

Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

“The One-Way Mirror: Law, Privacy, and the Media”

David Sloan Wilson

Professor of Biology and Anthropology, Binghamton University

“Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society”

Richard Powers

Professor of English, University of Illinois

“The Language of Life: A Rough Draft”


Linda Gordon

Florence Kelley Professor of History and Vilas Research Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin; and Professor of History, New York University

“Vigilantism and Childnapping in the Arizona Territory: Race and Family Values”

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.

Vice Chairman, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System

“One View from the Federal Reserve”

Edward O. Wilson

University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

“The Future of Life”


Lynn Margulis

Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts

“The Face of Gaia: Earth's Microcosm”

James M. McPherson

Professor, Department of History, Princeton University

“The Problem of Peace in the Midst of War, 1863-1865”

William Cronon

Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Humanist Environmentalism: A Manifesto”


Jared M. Diamond

Professor of Physiology, UCLA School of Medicine

“Why Did Human History Unfold Differently on Different Continents for the last 13,000 Years?”

Howard H. Baker, Jr.

Former U.S. Senator from Tennessee

“What's Happening?”

Mary-Claire King

American Cancer Society Research Professor, Department of Medicine and Genetics, University of Washington

“Genetics and Human Rights”


Freeman Dyson

Eminent Physicist-philosopher and author, Princeton University

“Gravity is Cool, or Why our Universe is Hospitable to Life”

Arthur Levine

President and Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia

“The Remaking of the American University”

Rita Dove

Former Poet Laureate of the United States and Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia

A Poetry Reading by Rita Dove


Alex Kotlowitz

Award-winning writer and speaker

“Writing on the Other America: Is Anybody Listening? Does Anybody Care?”

David Kessler

Dean of the Yale School of Medicine

“The Tobacco Wars”

Barbara Fields

Historian, Columbia University

“Race, Racism, and Identity”


Mary L. Good

Former undersecretary for technology for the technology administration in the U. S. Department of Commerce; managing member of Venture Capital Investors, Little Rock, Arkansas

“Higher Education as Part of the Global Enterprise”

Roald Hoffman

Nobel Prize winner, chemist, and poet, professor of chemistry at Cornell University Ithaca, NY

“Chemistry’s Essential Tension: The Same and Not the Same”

Martin Marty and Fairfax M. Cone

Pre-eminent Scholar on American Religion; Distinguished Service Professor of History of Christianity at the University of Chicago

“The Dangers of Religion in America – The Dangers on NonReligion in America”


Tony Kushner

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-Winning Playwright

“Arts in the Current Political Climate”

Ellis Cose

Author on Race Relations in America and contributing editor for Newsweek

“America’s Quest to Move Beyond Race”

Deborah Leigh Blum

Author and science writer at The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee; Pulitzer Prize winner for beat reporting in 1992 for a series on primate research, titled “The Monkey Wars”

“Sex on the Brain”


Jill Ker Conway

Visiting Scholar, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Tech

“Myths, Memoirs and the Modern Consciousness”

Paul Berg

Department of Biochemistry, Stanford School of Medicine

“Understanding our Genes: Opportunities and Concerns”

Martin E. P. Seligman

Kogod Professor and Director of Clinical Training in Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

“Learned Optimism: Preventing Depression, Boosting Achievement, Improving Health”


N. Scott Momaday

Regents Professor of the Humanities, University of Arizona

“The Mystery of Language: Native American Oral Tradition”

Daniel Schorr

Veteran reporter and commentator and the last of Edward R. Murrow's legendary CBS team still fully active in journalism

“Forgive Us Our Press Passes: Why all the Media Bashing”

Larry L. Smarr

Director, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“The Creation of Cyberspace: How the Internet will Change your Life”

Czeslaw Milosz and Wole Soyinka

Nobel Laureates of Literature

A reading from their works


Robert Schrieffer

University Professor of Physics, Florida State University

“Superconductivity for Poets: From Quantum Physics to Tomorrow's Technology”

Walter E. Massey

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, The University of California

“Research Universities in the Post-Cold War Era: How much change is necessary? Possible?”

Matt Williams

Playwright, Film and Television Writer, Director, and Producer

“The Responsibility of the Storyteller”


Arthur L. Schawlow

J.G. Jackson and C.J. Wood Professor of Physics at Stanford University

“What Lasers Can Do”

Gary L. Francione

Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School-Newark

“Animals, Property, and the Law”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of Afro-American Studies Harvard

“The End of Civilization as We Know It”


Drucilla L. Cornell

Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardoza School of Law

“Sex, Gender, and Equivalent Rights”

Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich

Award-Winning writers

“Beyond Cliché, Beyond Politics: Multiculturalism and the Fact of America”


Toni Morrison

Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities, Princeton University

“Studies in American Africanism: Gertrude Stein and the Difference She Makes”

Árpád Göncz

President of the Republic of Hungary

“Politics and Literature: Politics in Literature”

Paul R. Ehrlich

Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University

“Human Population Growth and the Deterioration of the Environment”


Peter H. Raven

Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Home Secretary National Academy of Sciences

“Poverty, Politics, & Extinction in the Tropics—And Their Impact on Us”

Robert Coles

Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities, Harvard University

“The Moral Life of the Young”

Wendy Wasserstein

Pulitzer Prize-Winning playwright

“A Life in the Theatre”