Arne Duncan to be Final Ubben Lecture Speaker for the Academic Year


Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will visit DePauw on April 21 to give the last Ubben Lecture of this academic year.

Described by The New York Times as “arguably one of the most powerful education secretaries in history,” Duncan was appointed in 2009 by President Obama and was the administration’s second longest serving member. Duncan stepped down from his position at the end of 2015. His speech this spring will be one of his first since leaving office.

“We try to get that person when they just hit the market or when they’re just hitting the news, so that it’s a lot more relevant, and you’re not getting someone who's been to IU and Butler,” said Executive Director of Media Relations Ken Owen.

Relevance is key for the Ubben Lecture Series, and Duncan’s visit is no exception.

“He’s been a really important voice on issues of education, which is at the core of many of the issues we’re dealing with in America, whether it’s poverty, income inequality, finding a way to create new ladders for success in this country,” Owen said on why Duncan was selected. “To get a fresh voice who’s really been in the thick of things for awhile is a powerful thing.”

Prior to his time as U.S. Secretary of Education, Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and ran the nonprofit education foundation, Ariel Education Initiative, which helped fund a college education for a class of inner-city children under the “I Have A Dream” program. Following this, Duncan was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to the head of Chicago Public Schools, and was chosen by Mayor Richard Daley to lead the school system in 2001.

“I think there will be takeaways for everybody," Owen said. "I think one of the really attractive things is that it’s hard in modern America to find somebody who is a change-agent but who also is able to kind of tick both sides off."

Senior education major Susan John is looking forward to the lecture, and hopes to learn from Duncan's experiences.

“I’m extremely excited that Arne Duncan is coming because when it comes to education, especially education policy, he’s a trailblazer,” John said. “For the last seven years he made so many different reforms at our federal level and he’s a man who truly deserves to be recognized on college campuses.”

Owen’s hope for Duncan’s speech–as well as the Ubben Lecture Series in general–is to open students’ minds to different ideas and paths to take.

“I think the value of being in the room, with whether it’s Jimmy Kimmel or Jane Goodall or Yeonmi Park or Douglas Hallward-Drienmeier or our next guest Arne Duncan, is that you’re exposed to somebody who's made a difference in the world and can give you a bit of a roadmap to how to forge your own path or be a change-agent.”