Panthers Online Guest Speakers

Princeton Day School's Panthers Online program has featured an impressive array of virtual guest speakers this spring who have shared their perspectives and expertise with students across a wide-range of subjects: 


Photo of Dr. Rebecca Bushnell '70 from a speech made at Princeton Day School in 2017.

Continuing its well-deserved reputation for connecting notable scholars with students, the PDS Humanities program hosted Rebecca Bushnell '70, Ph.D., a University of Pennsylvania Emerita Professor of English, former Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, PDS alumna and our Board of Trustees Chair. Dr. Bushnell talked about the importance of studying the humanities in times of crisis, the power of language in Shakespeare’s plays and the importance of stories—now and always.


Photos of Alex Manka '95 (left) and Matthew Tarduogno '04 (right) courtesy of their respective LinkedIn pages.

Since its inception, the PDS STEAM program has paid particular attention to the cutting edge of science, technology and engineering innovation. This spring, PDS welcomed back alumnus Alex Manka '95 to discuss with our engineering students his current role as a Guidance and Control Engineer at NASA and the future of aeronautic and astronautic engineering.

In addition, Computer Science teacher Theodor Brasoveanu presented alumnus Matthew Tarduogno '04, a cybersecurity expert who works for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Mr. Tarduogno shared his insights on cybersecurity, energy and emergency response, which are all of utmost importance during this challenging time for the nation and the world.


Photo of François Morelli from the RISD events page and Photo of Sean Kernan courtesy of his website.

Renowned for its expert faculty, strong mentoring and provocatively challenging coursework, the PDS Arts Department has produced hundreds of successful artists and photographers, and inspired a lifelong passion for the arts in thousands more. Advanced Studio teacher Jerry Hirniak welcomed esteemed artist François Morelli, whose cross-disciplinary practice in drawing, installation, performance, print media and sculpture has been showcased worldwide.

Photo from Arno Minkkinen's lecture courtesy of Thatcher Cook.

US Photography teacher Thatcher Cook presented a pair of highly-acclaimed professional photographers to give PDS photography students a proverbial look through their lenses: Arno Minkkinen's unique approach and perspective is featured in collections across the globe, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Mr. Minkkinen, who has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work, shared about his and techniques. Sean Kernan is a widely exhibited photographer, writer, filmmaker and pioneering teacher who embraces creativity and exploration. Mr. Kernan discussed the films he made exploring the Kampala Boxing Gym and the Crow Reservation in Montana.

Global Studies

Photo of Bassam Rifai courtesy of a segment on Fox News found in this Huffington Post article.

The PDS Global Studies program drives students to extend the PDS mission to its fullest expression by acting, leading and contributing with integrity, respect and compassion on a global scale. A primary effort of the program is to facilitate understanding and engagement with complex global issues. Recently, senior Eyal Yakoby '20 presented guest speaker Bassam Rifai, who did precisely that through his discussion of Syria.

Mr. Rifai is the Director of Public Affairs at SCM Medical, an non-governmental organization that provides medical and humanitarian aid to refugees. He is also currently serving as a political advisor and Chairman of the Board for the Syrian American Council. Mr. Rifai discussed the complex realities of the Syrian conflict and initiatives that his organizations are undertaking in support of freedom and democracy in Syria.

Health and Wellness

Photo of Dr. Melissa Harrison courtesy of the "Minding Your Mind" website and a screenshot of Dylan Quigley '12 during his discussion with PDS students.

The PDS Health and Wellness program is always looking out for and taking care of the mental and physical wellness of the School community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation and remote learning, these efforts have been as important as ever.

The Health and Wellness program welcomed Dr. Melissa Harrison from Minding Your Mind and a young man also affiliated with Minding Your Mind (name withheld for privacy). The pair reflected upon the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on teenagers and students from a clinical and personal perspective. Dylan Quigley '12 also joined Panthers Online US health classes this spring to share his perspective on overcoming obstacles and the process of finding and maintaining wellness while moving through and beyond PDS.

REx Program

From top left to bottom right: Dr. Jessica Barson, Ashley Smoots, Dr. Ami Shah Brown, Dr. Barbara Spalholz, Dr. Nancy Bonini and Dr. David Edelman. Photos of Ashley Smoots and Ami Shah Brown were provided by email and all other photos are from each guest's biography on their personal website.

The School's signature Research Experience (REx) program provides select US students the opportunity for deep explorations of particular research areas through independent study and research projects. As part of the program, students participate in invaluable opportunities for interact with renowned experts in a variety of specialty fields. Among the alumni speakers who joined REx students during Panthers Online this spring:

  • David Edelman '79, Ph.D., Associate Professor of General Internal Medicine at Duke University, MD Director of the VA OAA Health Services Research Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation.
  • Barbara Spalholz '74, Ph.D., Former Chief, Cancer Cell Biology Branch, Division of Cancer Biology, Division of Cancer Biology, National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Contractor, Kelly Government Solutions
    • PDS Alumni Service Award Recipient for her lifetime of work to overcome a particularly devastating form of cancer. 
  • Jessica Barson '96, Ph.D., Dept of Neurobiology & Anatomy,  Drexel University SOM
    •  Neural basis of addiction, paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus, nucleus accumbens, neuropeptide
  • Nancy Bonini '77, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, SOM and SAS 
    •  Neuroscience, molecular basis for neurodegenerative disease and disorder in the brain, Drosophila model
  • Ami Shah Brown '92, Ph.D., Inovio Pharmaceuticals
    • Development of a possible COVID-19 vaccine 
  •  Ashley Smoots '09, Epidemiologist, CDC Foundation, Senior Project Coordinator based at the Centers for Disease Control, working with the Division of Reproductive Health 
    •  CDC Emergency Response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other health crises.

Read more on the alumni speakers in a recent news story here.

Tommy Bocian's Upper School Speaker Series

Top Row from left: Gretchen Carlson, Julie Roginsky, Christine Todd Whitman (screenshots from PDS livestreams). Bottom Row from left: Amb. James Gadsden, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, (provided in biographies by each guest) and Tommy Bocian '20. 

Senior Tommy Bocian '20 saw this spring's shift to online learning at Princeton Day School as an opportunity to make an impact. Recognizing the need for more synchronous community experiences for Upper School students, Tommy created, coordinated and also emceed a Virtual Speaker Series. The discussions engaged the larger US community, addressing topical local and national issues of particular interest. Guests in the Virtual Speaker Series:

  • Former Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson and Democratic Strategist/PDS Alumna Julie Roginsky '91 
    • Discussion about their non-profit work and the #MeToo movement. 
  • Former Governor of New Jersey and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman
    • Reflections on her extensive political career, advice for younger eligible voters, and her perspective on current political and environmental issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
    • Notable figure in public health due to her role in studying and exposing elevated levels of lead in the water supply of Flint, Michigan. In the aftermath of the water crisis, she has become a national leader in water safety and was named among the "100 Most Influential People in the World" in Time Magazine.
  • Ambassador James Gadsden
    • A career member of the Senior Foreign Service who entered the field in 1972, Ambassador Gadsden shared perspectives and advice on developing a career in public service as well as insights on the current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on foreign policy. 

Read more about Tommy Bocian's US Speaker Series in a recent news story here.

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