Foster-Foreman Conference features award-winning journalists

Two respected journalists -- one a Pulitzer Prize winner and the other a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist -- will deliver free public lectures during the spring Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers at Penn State.

The lecture series, scheduled Tuesday, April 2, and Wednesday, April 3, brings distinguished writers to the University Park campus to share their experiences and expertise with students, faculty and the public.

David Finkel, an editor and writer for The Washington Post, will present the first lecture at 7 p.m. April 2 in the HUB-Robeson Center Heritage Hall. Inga Saffron, who writes about architecture, design and planning for The Philadelphia Inquirer, will present the second lecture at 10:10 a.m. April 3 in the HUB-Robeson Center Auditorium.

Finkel has been an editor and writer for The Washington Post since 1990, reporting from Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe and across the United States. He is the author of “The Good Soldiers,” based on his eight months with an infantry battalion in a particularly dangerous area of Baghdad. The book was named one of the 10 best books of 2009 by The New York Times Sunday Book Review, and it received the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Overseas Press Club’s Cornelius Ryan Award.

Finkel is working on a sequel that will document the long-term psychological effects of the soldiers’ war experience. In 2006, Finkel received a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for stories about U.S. democracy-promotion efforts in Yemen. In 2012, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant of $500,000 to underwrite his research and writing.

Saffron writes about architecture, design and planning for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her column, “Changing Skyline,” has appeared weekly since 1999. Pushing beyond the usual boundaries of architectural criticism, her columns focus on the buildings and public spaces that Philadelphians encounter in their daily lives. In her criticism, Saffron applies a reporter’s skills and sensibility to explore the forces -- political, financial, cultural -- that shape the city. Her columns on waterfront development, zoning and parking issues have led to changes in city policy.

Saffron, who began her career as a magazine writer in Ireland, joined The Inquirer in 1985 as a suburban reporter. She spent five years as an Inquirer correspondent in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, covering wars in the former Yugoslavia and in Chechnya. In 2012, she completed a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. She has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist three times.

In 1997, Larry Foster, a 1948 Penn State graduate, and his wife, Ellen Miller Foster, a 1949 graduate, gave $500,000 to endow the Foster Professorship in Writing and Editing in the College of Communications. The program was designed to support new strategies for improving students’ writing skills and enables the University to host the annual Foster Conference of Distinguished Writers.

In April 2010, the Fosters created a Trustee Matching Scholarship and provided support for equipment in the new multimedia laboratory and newsroom housed in the College of Communications. The Fosters previously have provided funds to endow the Larry and Ellen Foster Professorship in Writing and Editing; they have contributed to enhance Carnegie Building’s lobby, main conference room and student services area; they have created the Lawrence G. and Ellen M. Foster Scholarship Endowment; and they have provided a lead gift to establish the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communications, which is housed in the College of Communications.

Under the direction of Gene Foreman, the retired Foster Professor of Communications, the Conference is an opportunity for students to acquaint themselves with distinguished role models in the field of journalism. This is the 28th Conference to be held under the auspices of the Foster Professorship and the fourth renamed as the Foster-Foreman Conference to honor the leadership and organizational efforts of Foreman, the inaugural Foster Professor who has led the event since its inception in 1999.

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Last Updated March 11, 2013