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Richard Leakey to Speak at Moravian College – October 5
His appearance marks the 22nd Year of the Cohen Arts and Lectures Series at Moravian
Bethlehem, Pa., September 19, 2005—Moravian will celebrate 22 years of the Cohen Arts and Lectures Series with Richard Leakey’s presentation titled “Human Origins and the Survival of the Species” on Wednesday October 5, 2005 at 8:00 p.m. Doors will open at 7:15 p. m. The program will be held in Johnston Hall at Moravian College, located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. General admission is $15 and proceeds benefit the Moravian College Scholarship Fund.
For more than 30 years, Richard Leakey has made international headlines for his work in Kenya. Heir to the legacy of his parents, famed fossil-hunters Louis S.B. Leakey and Mary Douglas Leakey, Richard Leakey has been credited with some of this century’s most successful fossil finds.
As former director of the National Museums of Kenya and of the Kenya Wildlife Service, he has used his considerable influence to raise money for the preservation of Kenyan wildlife and culture. In 1995, he took a stand against the growing corruption in Kenya’s government by forming Safina, an opposition party. Though subjected to beatings, death threats, and government surveillance, Leakey has continued his crusade against what he considers to be an oppressive regime.
Richard Ernest Frere Leakey was born in 1944, the oldest of the three sons of Louis and Mary Leakey, who had made the dig at Olduvai Gorge in what is now Tanzania their special project since the early 1930s. Initially, he seemed uninterested in their field; during their fossil-finding excursions, Richard would occupy himself by tracking wild animals. This served as a training ground for his first professional occupation as a supplier of animals to research institutions. He enjoyed tracking and observing animals so much that at 17 he left school to establish a photographic safari company. His new venture soon became a thriving enterprise.
But he could not deny an ongoing interest in pre-history. While still in his teens, he teamed up with a former colleague of his parents to go on fossil-hunting expeditions at Lake Natron on the Kenya-Tanzania border.
In 1967, Leakey joined an international fossil-hunting expedition in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, serving as the team-leader for Kenya. On a flight to Nairobi, he spotted from the airplane window what appeared to be fossil-bearing sedimentary rock, and he returned by land to make a preliminary survey of the area. His observations confirmed, he petitioned the National Geographic Society to fund an exploratory expedition of the area. His youth and relative inexperience notwithstanding, the society agreed to support the venture, with Leakey as team-leader. But he was soon to discover that though he led the expedition, all the notice went to the scientists who studied the specimens.
In 1965, Leakey went to England to study for a degree. He spent six months catching up on two years of missed high school before returning home to Kenya. Though he never returned to complete a university degree, he set his mind to gaining credibility and respect among his academically trained colleagues. To that end, he decided to try for the recently vacated post of director of the National Museums of Kenya. He applied just as Kenya was becoming an independent nation, and nationalistic feelings ran high; his status as a Kenyan citizen won him the post. Five years later, he organized an excavation of the eastern shore of Lake Rudolf, renamed Lake Turkana; and, as he had predicted, it was a treasure house of ancient hominid fossils.
In the 30 years following, he and a team of paleoanthropologists known as “The Hominid Gang” unearthed more than 200 fossils. Many were of high quality, and the most famous, “Turkana Boy,” a Homo erectus some 1.6 million years old, was one of the most complete skeletons ever found. His wife, primate zoologist Meave Epps Leakey, today continues the research on human origins. In 1995, she discovered fossils indicating that humans walked upright 4 million years ago—500,000 years earlier than had been previously thought.
In 1989, Leakey became director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. In this post, he led important efforts to end rampant elephant poaching. These drew international support for a ban on the ivory trade and raised more than $150 million for wildlife conservation. The elephant population has since stabilized and continues to grow.
In 1993, Leakey lost both legs in a plane crash and resigned from the Wildlife Service. He would later return in 1998, at the request of the Kenyan government, to salvage the agency from bankruptcy. In 1999, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi appointed Leakey head of the Civil Service and Secretary of the Cabinet, a post he held until 2001. During that time, he worked closely on a number of national issues, including the fight to end institutionalized corruption in Kenya.
Though no longer active in fieldwork, Richard Leakey remains one of the foremost authorities on wildlife and nature conservation and continues to educate others about the dangers of environmental degradation through his many lectures and books.
Richard and Meave Leakey’s daughter Louise, 34, continues the family work. In 1995, she graduated with an honors degree in geology and zoology from the University of Bristol and completed a Ph.D. in paleontology at the University of London in 2001. The Leakeys have another daughter, Samira, and Richard has a daughter, Anna, from his first marriage.
Richard Leakey has written or co-authored more than 100 scientific articles and presented several television programs, including the multi-part series “The Making of Mankind” (1982) and NBC’s Earthwatch. In 1995, he was the subject of two television documentaries in England.
In 2002, he was awarded Joseph Wood Krutch Medal of the Humane Society of the United States, presented to “an individual who has made a significant contribution toward the improvement of life and the environment.” In 2003, he received the Earthwatch Institute’s Conservation Award, in recognition of his support for research and education for sustainable development.
Among his books are The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Mankind (with Roger Lewin, 1995), Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human (with Roger Lewin, 1993), The Making of Mankind (1981), and One Life, his 1984 autobiography. (It focuses on his battle with kidney failure, first diagnosed in 1969. By 1979, it had so worsened that he received a kidney transplant from his brother, Philip, which almost killed him in the backlash of organ rejection.) His latest book, Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa’s Natural Treasures (with Virginia Morell, 2001), chronicles his effort to save the African elephant.
Leakey’s appearance marks the 22nd anniversary of the Cohen Arts and Lectures Series at Moravian College, which has brought a diverse group of speakers and performers to campus, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Tom Friedman; television journalist David Brinkley; folk singer Burl Ives; scientist Carl Sagan; feminist writer and lecturer Gloria Steinem; political analysts Andrea Mitchell, David Gergen, and Tom Wicker; former president Jimmy Carter; pianist Vladimir Feltsman, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philomusica chamber ensemble; author Kurt Vonnegut; a political panel comprising commentator Cokie Roberts, former New York governor Mario Cuomo, political consultant James Carville, and former governor and presidential chief of staff John Sununu; former ambassador Andrew Young; and environmental activist Joseph P. Kennedy II, and best-selling author Anna Quindlen. Last year CNN Crossfire’s Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala presented a political debate.
The Cohen Arts and Lectures Series at Moravian College was established in 1984 through the generosity of Bertha F. (Berte) Cohen ’37 and the late Bernard L. Cohen. The series represents a personal expression of appreciation for their longtime association with the College and the Bethlehem community. Bertha Cohen is a 1937 Moravian graduate and a former member of the college’s board of trustees. Bernard Cohen was a member of the Lehigh University class of 1936.
“Moravian College extends our most heartfelt gratitude to Berte Cohen who has so generously supported this series,” said Ervin J. Rokke, Moravian College president. “As a dedicated alumna, an effective and committed trustee, and a most generous benefactress Berte with her late husband Bernie has enriched our lives at Moravian for more than half a century by making it possible for us to welcome distinguished and inspiring figures to our campus.”
The proceeds of the Cohen Arts and Lectures Series support the Cohen Arts and Lectures Scholarships which are awarded to high-achieving full-time Moravian College seniors. Over 50 Moravian students have benefited from the scholarships.
Recipients have demonstrated superior academic achievement and active participation in college or community activities. Nominations for the scholarships come from the director of financial aid, and selection is made by the vice president for enrollment, the vice president for institutional advancement, and the vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.
Tickets for the lecture are $15 and will be sold at the HUB desk in the Haupert Union Building, located at the corner of Monocacy and West Locust streets. Tickets may be purchased by phone during normal business hours at 610-625-7880. Tickets are non-refundable. Admission is free for Moravian students, faculty, and staff, Moravian emeriti, honoraries, retirees, and LVIAC students, faculty, and staff. They may pick up a free ticket at the HUB desk. For information, call 610-861-1491.
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. For more information call (610) 861-1491 or visit the web site at www.moravian.edu.