Former White House Science Adviser to Give PBK Lecture

Former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy John P. Holdren will speak at 4:30 p.m. on March 22 in Choi Auditorium as the 2018 Occidental College Phi Beta Kappa speaker.

Currently the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and professor of environmental science and policy at Harvard University, Holdren also served as science adviser to President Barack Obama from January 2009 to January 2017, the longest-serving science adviser in the history of the position.

His responsibilities in that role included advising the president on all science and technology issues bearing on the president’s agenda (including economic competitiveness and job creation, biomedicine and public health, energy and climate change, the oceans and the Arctic, the space program, and national and homeland security); overseeing interagency science and technology programs; developing initiatives in STEM education; advancing scientific integrity and openness in government; and representing the U.S. government in interactions with the U.S. and global science and engineering communities.

Holdren earned bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees from MIT and a Ph.D. from Stanford in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Honors include being awarded one of the first MacArthur Prizes (1981), the Volvo International Environment Prize (1993), the Tyler Prize for Environment (2000) and the Heinz Prize for Public Policy (2001).

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Holdren was a professor in both the Kennedy School of Government and in the department of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, as well as CEO of the Woods Hole Research Center. From 1973 to 1996, he was on the faculty of UC Berkeley. During the Clinton administration, he served for both terms on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Underwritten by the Ruenitz Trust Fund Endowment in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Robert C. Ruenitz, the Occidental Phi Beta Kappa Speakers Series lecture is free and open to the public.

The Speakers Series was created in 2006 with a gift from New York entrepreneur Robert M. Ruenitz ’60 and his wife Jeri Hamilton through the Ruenitz Trust to honor the memory of Ruenitz’s parents, Esther Merriman Ruenitz and Dr. Robert C. Ruenitz.

Founded in 1926, the Occidental Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is one of the first chapters of the country’s oldest academic honor society to be chartered at a liberal arts college in the western United States.

Previous Ruenitz lecturers have included Howard Dean, MD, the former governor of Vermont; Ahmed Zewail, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist; author and educational critic Jonathan Kozol; social critic Judith Butler; author and activist Ayaan Hirsi; Bill Nye the Science Guy; and medical activist Paul Farmer.