Venus Williams, Laura Bush, Freeman Hrabowski III Headline 2017-2018 Speaker Series


Southeast Missouri State University announces its 2017-2018 Speakers Series with an outstanding lineup of engaging individuals who will share their personal stories, challenges, triumphs and visions with the campus and regional community.

Speakers this year include: U.S. tennis icon Venus Williams; Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, president of The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC); and Former First Lady Laura Bush. All events will be held in the Show Me Center.

Dr. Michio Kaku

Internationally recognized physicist Dr. Michio Kaku kicked off the series Aug. 21 in a unique event that coincided with the Great American Solar Eclipse.

“Through this annual series, University students will have the opportunity to learn from some of the most accomplished individuals in the world,” said Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success and dean of students.

Joanna Shaver, coordinator of campus programming, added, “We are so pleased to bring knowledgeable and dynamic individuals to share their stories with Southeast. I’m looking forward to learning from three individuals who have made such an impact in our country.”


Tickets are required for all three upcoming events. Tickets for the Venus Williams event are $10 and are available for purchase after 5 p.m. Sept. 5. Tickets for “An Evening with Laura Bush” go on sale Dec. 1. Tickets for both events can be purchased at and the Show Me Center Box Office. Current Southeast faculty, staff and students can use a valid Redhawks ID to pick up a free ticket for these two events in the Center for Student Involvement (University Center Room 204) or the Show Me Center Box Office.

Tickets for the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner, during which Hrabowski will speak, will go on sale Nov. 27.

For more information on the series, visit

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

U.S. tennis icon Venus Williams will speak about her successful career on and off the court at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in a presentation titled “An Evening with Venus Williams.”

For more information on Venus Williams, visit  You can also follow her on Twitter: and Instagram:

About Venus Williams:

Venus Williams is one of the most accomplished women in the history of the sport. Having been called “the best athlete in the history of women’s tennis” by Sports Illustrated, Venus has been ranked number one in the world in singles three times in her career, and has captured seven Grand Slam titles, five Wimbledon championships and five Olympic medals — and counting.

Along the way, Venus has also distinguished herself as an author who has written a best-selling book, an advocate for gender and pays equality, an investor whose ventures include becoming with her sister the first African-American women to buy shares of an NFL team, and a designer and entrepreneur who has launched and helms two businesses; EleVen, the athletic apparel line designed to empower women to look and feel “better than the best” better than a 10 and V*STARR Interiors, a full-service commercial and residential interior design firm with clients ranging from tennis clubs to luxury hotel and residential developers. For more information on Venus Williams visit


Dr. Freeman Hrabowski

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, author, educator and activist whose research and publications advocate for educational success in science and technology for African Americans and others, will present the keynote address at Southeast’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner Jan. 17. The theme of this year’s dinner is “MLK50: Where Do We Go From Here?”

Hrabowski’s research and publications advocate for science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance. Hrabowski serves as a consultant to the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Academies, and universities and school systems nationally. He also serves on the boards of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation, T. Rowe Price Group, The Urban Institute, McCormick & Company, and the Baltimore Equitable Society.

Hrabowski has authored numerous articles and co-authored two books, “Beating the Odds” and “Overcoming the Odds.” His most recent book, “Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement,” describes the events and experiences that played a central role in his development as an educator and leader.

With philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff, he co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program in 1988. The program is open to all high-achieving students committed to pursuing advanced degrees and research careers in science and engineering, and advancing underrepresented minorities in these fields.

In 2008, he was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report. TIME magazine named him one of America’s “10 Best College Presidents in 2009”, and one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012. In 2011, he received both the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence and the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award, recognized by many as the nation’s highest awards among higher education leaders. In 2012, he received the Heinz Award for his contributions to improving the “Human Condition” and was among the inaugural inductees into the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions Leadership Hall of Fame.

He has been awarded numerous honors and accolades, including election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Philosophical Society; receiving the prestigious McGraw Prize in Education; and the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.

He also holds honorary degrees from more than 20 institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Duke, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, Haverford College and Harvey Mudd College.

A child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Hrabowski was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, “Four Little Girls,” on the racially motivated bombing in 1963 of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Former U.S. First Lady Laura Bush

Laura Bush

Former U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, an advocate for literacy, education and women’s rights, will present “An Evening with Laura Bush” Feb. 21.

After leaving the White House, President and Mrs. Bush founded the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of SMU in Dallas, Texas. The Center is home to the Bush Presidential Library & Museum and the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy center established to solve today’s most pressing challenges by developing leaders, advancing policy and taking action.

As chair of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, Mrs. Bush is passionate about access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity for women and girls around the world. The Bush Institute prepares and empowers the next generation of women leaders in North Africa and the Middle East, works to ensure the expansion and protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan, and engages and supports First Ladies from around the world so they can effectively use their unique platforms to advance issues for women and girls in their countries.

Mrs. Bush has been a leading voice for spreading freedom and promoting human rights across the globe. As First Lady, she also advocated for the importance of literacy and education to advance opportunity for America’s young people and to foster healthy families and communities. She highlighted the importance of preparing children to become lifelong learners and visited schools around the world, with a particular focus on the education of girls and women.

Mrs. Bush established the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C, and at the Bush Institute, she has continued to improve student achievement through effective school leadership, middle school transformation and the use of accountability.

Women’s healthcare also has been a central issue for Mrs. Bush. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, she partnered with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to launch The Heart Truth campaign and the Red Dress project. The Heart Truth campaign raises awareness among women about their risk for heart disease. As First Lady, she also helped launch the first international partnerships for breast cancer awareness and research, visiting many countries to support programs that help women detect breast cancer early so they can seek treatment when it has the best chance of success. Mrs. Bush also has visited more than a dozen countries to support the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President’s Malaria Initiative. President and Mrs. Bush continue their work to promote women’s health through Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an independent affiliate of the George W. Bush Institute and a global partnership fighting women’s cancers.

Mrs. Bush is the author of the bestselling memoir, “Spoken From the Heart,” and bestselling children’s book, “Our Great Big Backyard.” She serves on many boards, including the National Advisory Board for the Salvation Army, the Council for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Board of Trustees for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Southern Methodist University Board of Trustees.

The former First Lady was born in Midland, Texas, to Harold and Jenna Welch. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Texas. She taught in public schools in Dallas, Houston and Austin, and worked as a public school librarian. She served as First Lady of Texas from 1995 to 2000. President and Mrs. Bush are the proud parents of twin daughters Barbara and Jenna, son-in-law Henry Hager, and grandparents to Margaret Laura “Mila” and Poppy Louise Hager.