Doris Kearns Goodwin will visit Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus March 3 to deliver the 2020 Hugh and Ethel Kelly Lecture. Goodwin is a world-renowned presidential historian, public speaker, and celebrated author who won both a Pulitzer Prize and the top spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list. 

Goodwin’s lecture, “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” will be held at 2:30 p.m. in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Moss Arts Center. The event, hosted by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, is free and open to the campus community; registration is encouraged. Light refreshments and an opportunity to meet the author will follow the event. 

Her talk will explore the themes presented in her book — Goodwin’s seventh — of the same name, which was published to critical acclaim in 2018 and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. A culmination of Goodwin’s five decades studying the American presidents, the book suggests a roadmap for leadership by examining the careers of presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. 

“Leadership is a unifying theme that transcends disciplinary, organizational, and historical boundaries,” said Stefan Duma, the Harry Wyatt Professor of Engineering and director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. “To host a speaker of this caliber, who can use a sharp historical lens to explore the scope and impact of issues that can influence all of us, is a tremendous honor.” 

The Hugh and Ethel Kelly Lecture Series is made possible by a fund from the estate of Ethel Kelly, who generously supported Virginia Tech and the College of Engineering in honor of her husband Hugh. Hugh Kelly earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university and went on to a remarkably productive career at AT&T’s famed Bell Labs, playing key roles in multiple groundbreaking projects, including the 1962 launch of the Telstar communications satellite. 

To recognize and celebrate Kelly’s technical accomplishments and the couple’s support of Virginia Tech, the College of Engineering and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science established the lecture series in 2013. Intended to be a thought-provoking forum for discussion and a source for new knowledge, the lectures provide an opportunity for the campus community to learn from visionary leaders and thinkers. Previous speakers have included Nobel Prize winners, former Cabinet officials, and a secretary emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution. 

Kelly Hall, which houses the headquarters of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, is also named in honor of the couple.

Goodwin was a graduate student at Harvard when she was selected for the prestigious White House Fellows program during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency; she went on to work with Johnson and to assist him in the production of his memoirs. 

Those experiences inspired her first book, "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream." The volume, which was re-released with a new foreword in 2019, was greeted with critical acclaim and became a national bestseller.  

Goodwin’s subsequent work has been celebrated with literary accolades and nods in popular culture. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her second book, "No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II." "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys" was adapted into an award-winning five-part television miniseries. "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism," now being developed into a film, won the Carnegie Medal. Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film "Lincoln" was based in part on Goodwin’s "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" — which also won the Lincoln Prize, the inaugural Book Prize in American History, and the Lincoln Leadership Prize. 

Goodwin was also awarded the Charles Frankel Prize, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, the New England Book Award, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, and the New York State Writers Hall of Fame, among many others.  

Well known for her appearances and commentary on television, Goodwin has frequently appeared on documentaries and news and cable networks. Her guest spots on a diverse range of popular shows — from "Meet the Press" to "The Late Show with Steven Colbert" to "The Simpsons" — testifies to the breadth of her appeal and expertise.   

Goodwin graduated magna cum laude from Colby College and earned a doctoral degree in government from Harvard University. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

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