Stern Family Forum Kicks Off with Bret Stephens and Bill Whitaker – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Stern Family Forum Kicks Off with Bret Stephens and Bill Whitaker

A lecture series created to spur students to enter into conversations on tough issues will open with a talk from Pulitzer Prize-Winning New York Times Opinion Columnist Bret Stephens that will be moderated by Emmy Award-winning 60 Minutes Correspondent and HWS Trustee Bill Whitaker.

The Stern Family Forum, generously funded by Honorary Trustee Herbert J. Stern ’58, P’03, LL.D. ’74 and Trustee Samuel A. Stern ’03, was recently created to support annual events with notable guests who will bring nuance to difficult, sometimes controversial subjects.

The Inaugural Stern Family Forum will feature a dialogue on the future of conservatism with New York Times Opinion Columnist Bret Stephens. The moderator for the discussion will be HWS Trustee Bill Whitaker ’73, L.H.D. ’97, who has won two Emmys, most recently as a correspondent for 60 Minutes.

The public event titled “What Is Conservatism Today? What Should It Be? Why Do We Need It?” will be held on Wednesday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.

Prior to joining the Times in 2017, Stephens spent many years at The Wall Street Journal, where he won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He also served as editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, a position he assumed at age 28. He is a leading member of the “NeverTrump” wing of the conservative movement and has regularly courted controversy from both the left and right for his views on foreign policy, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, climate change, cancel culture, gun control and other subjects. Stephens grew up in Mexico City, has degrees from The University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, and is co-founder, with chess champion Garry Kasparov, of the Renew Democracy Initiative. He is currently at work on a book called How To Save The Free World and is also the editor-in-chief of SAPIR, a new Jewish quarterly. 

“Stephens is a public intellectual who has expressed strong views on the most pressing issues facing our globe,” says President Joyce P. Jacobsen. “It is my hope and the hope of the organizers of the Forum – including the Sterns, Provost and Dean of Faculty Sarah Kirk, Dean of Hobart College Scott Brophy ’78, P’12, and Professor of Philosophy Eric Barnes – that this event will reveal the complexities of thorny issues through open and productive dialogue. I thank Bill Whitaker for moderating, and Judge Stern and Sam Stern for the funding to make this and many future events possible.”

The Sterns established a permanent endowed fund to host one or more annual institutional forums focused on public discussion of significant, topical issues.  

“The Forum brings into focus one of the primary functions of Hobart and William Smith as a proving ground where students — and the rest of us — can explore, engage and disagree, analyze, synthesize and understand more fully that each of our perspectives is only one of many,” says Herbert J. Stern.

As CBS’ 60 Minutes correspondent, Whitaker has reported stories from across the world on a wide range of issues. His investigation into the origins of the opioid crisis has won more awards than any other 60 Minutes work, among them the DuPont Columbia University award, the Peabody, an Emmy and an RTDNA Murrow award. In 2021, he received the 2021 ICFJ Founders Award for Excellence in Journalism for a lifetime commitment to the highest professional standards. The award honors a journalist who produces stellar work in the public interest. A member of the HWS Board of Trustees since 2001, Whitaker chairs its Belonging, Diversity and Equity Committee. He has spoken on campus on a number of occasions, including the 1997 and 2008 Commencement ceremonies. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his service to HWS.

HWS Honorary Trustee Herbert J. Stern ’58, P’03, L.L.D.’74 is a trial lawyer who, as United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, prosecuted the mayors of Newark, Jersey City and Atlantic City, N.J. He is the author of Diary of a DA: The True Story of the Prosecutor Who Took on the Mob, Fought Corruption, and Won. He later served as a United States District Judge of New Jersey and as the United States Judge for Berlin. His book about his service in Germany, Judgment in Berlin, was made into a film starring Sean Penn and Martin Sheen, who portrayed Stern. He is also the author of the multi-volume legal work Trying Cases to Win as well as a planned trilogy of historical novels about Adolf Hitler’s political rise and the road to World War II. The first two, Wolf (2020) and Sins of the Fathers (2022), have already been published. Herbert Stern was awarded an honorary degree from HWS in 1974, the first of five honorary degrees from various institutions. He received the Hobart Medal of Excellence in 1990 and was lead donor for Stern Hall, which provides the Colleges with 27,000 square feet of integral academic space.

HWS Trustee Samuel A. Stern ’03 is a trial attorney with both a private practice and government prosecutorial background. In 2019, he founded Stern LLC, a boutique law firm specializing in significant criminal and civil litigation throughout the United States. Sam Stern also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law, and has taught oral advocacy at the National Trial Advocacy College at University of Virginia School of Law. He is also an author and his book on cross-examination will be released by Skyhorse Publishing later this year. He has served as a member of the HWS Board of Trustees since 2019.

The event will be livestreamed.