Genetics firm CEO kicks off Schreyer Honors College's Shaping the Future Summit

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Schreyer Honors College is looking ahead six months to April and sees a Penn State community that is talking about the future.

That is the goal behind the college’s introduction of the Shaping the Future Summit, a series of panel roundtables, lectures, book discussions and other related events culminating in a keynote address by futurist, entrepreneur and author Peter Diamandis on Tuesday, April 1. The focus of the inaugural summit is “The Impact of Innovation.”

The summit launch was held Oct. 11 at the Nittany Lion Inn where Penn State faculty, staff, Schreyer Scholars and alumni were given a preview of the event. The launch included an overview of the summit and remarks from Life Technologies Chairman and CEO Greg Lucier, a 1986 Penn State honors engineering graduate.

Lucier explained that just as his company’s work in genetics brings with it a level of responsibility and stewardship, so does the University’s role in preparing its students to be leaders in science, industry, business and academia. It is a shared commitment that makes partnering together on the summit a good fit.

Recounting the company’s initial foray into stem cell research, Lucier said he realized “an organization like ours that is tinkering with how life works has a greater responsibility to establish its reputation and presence in society.”

“We intentionally developed an organization whose culture was very purpose oriented, very purpose driven and partnered with people and organizations that we thought could really make a dent in society for the better,” Lucier said.

“And I will tell you that Penn State for me, beyond just being a place that I have very dear in my heart, is a world leader. It’s a world leader in engineering. It’s a world leader with the Honors College. That’s what brings me here today to help kick off the summit and make it an enduring, positive platform here at this university going forward.”

Christian M. M. Brady, the Honors College dean, characterized the summit as a “big idea,” one that goes beyond a one-time event and instead engages students and faculty in meaningful conversations throughout much of the academic year.

“I was challenged when I arrived to come up with something that I thought could be transformative, that could have a big impact not just for the Honors College but for the University as a whole, something that would bring life and energy and appropriate attention to things that are happening at Penn State,” Brady said. “After a lot of time thinking and talking to a lot of people, I realized we need to have something that places in front of our students on a regular basis the challenge of the future. So we’ve come up with the Shaping the Future Summit. It is designed to engage our Penn State community at all levels with the challenges of what lies ahead in the future. Each year, we will be bringing in world leaders to discuss global issues and challenges. In that culminating speech, our speakers will challenge our students and say ‘From my vantage point, these are the problems I think you’re going to need to address, so get started on them now.’”

Leading up to the summit’s keynote address will be events coordinated by a steering committee of Schreyer Honors College staff, Penn State faculty, administrators and students.

The selection of Peter Diamandis, the chairman and chief executive officer of the X Prize Foundation, to deliver the inaugural Summit keynote brings a visionary leader to campus who will exhort students to see and seize the possibilities unleashed through innovation, Brady said.

“Innovation is a way we can all excel and make and prepare for what lies ahead,” Brady said. “Innovation, according to Peter Diamandis, ‘is the solution to our problems. Whatever area they are, if we are willing to think creatively and to innovate, we will overcome.’”

Diamandis is familiar to a number of the Honors College’s first-year students. His New York Times best-seller “Abundance” was one of the college’s summer reading selections for its fall 2013 incoming class.

In addition to the summit launch, two events connected to the summit have been held to date. The first was a speech on "Change the Possible: The Impact of Innovation on Space" by Jay Falker, a 1996 Penn State engineering graduate and program executive with NASA Innoved Advanced Concepts Center Innovation Fund. The second was a presentation by Casimer DeCusatis, a 1986 Penn State engineering graduate, an IBM Master Inventor and the chief technology officer for strategic alliances with IBM Systems Networking, who spoke on "From Wall Street to Watson: The Next Generation of Data Networks." DeCusatis delivered the Schreyer Honors College's 18th annual Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecture.

Upcoming Summit-related events include:

-- A program on the future of entrepreneurship with a presentation by Patricia G. Greene, Paul T. Babson Chair in Entrepreneurship at Babson College, at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, in Pike Auditorium in the Biobehavioral Health Building.

-- A panel discussion on the future of medicine and health care in January.

-- A program on the future of energy and sustainability in February.

Partnering with the Schreyer Honors College on the Shaping the Future Summit are the Presidential Leadership Academy; Penn State’s Lunar Lion Team, which is the only university-affiliated team attempting to the be the first to land a privately funded spaceship on the moon to win the Google Lunar X Prize competition; and Innoblue, the Penn State student entrepreneurship group.

For more information about the summit, visit http://futuresummit.psu.edu.

Last Updated January 10, 2014