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Distinguished speaker delivers first Meijer lecture as part of Grand Valley's Fall Arts Celebration

  • Jill Ker Conway

Posted on September 16, 2010

A successful author, academician, and businesswoman who serves on the boards of major corporations, Jill Ker Conway, will draw upon a wealth of experience and insights as she looks ahead to the next 50 years during her presentation at Grand Valley State University.

Conway is one of only a few people versatile and distinguished enough to be thought of simultaneously as the first of three Grand Valley 50th Anniversary Distinguished Academic Lecturers, the inaugural speaker of the Frederik Meijer Lecture Series, and the 2010 Fall Arts Celebration Distinguished Academic Lecturer.

Her talk, “The Next 50 Years in the World,” will be presented Thursday, September 30, at 7 p.m. on the second floor of the L.V. Eberhard Center, 301 West Fulton, on the Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

Conway was born in New South Wales in the Australian outback, where she and her family lived in near isolation working a sheep station, until moving to Sydney when she was a teen. The magnitude of obstacles she has overcome to reach her full potential has been detailed in her three books of memoir, beginning with The Road from Coorain, published in 1989. She has also edited three anthologies of women’s biographies from around the world. A book sale and signing will take place after her lecture.

Conway received a doctorate from Harvard in 1969 and in 1975 became the first woman president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the U.S. Among her many accomplishments at Smith were the instigation of programs to assist welfare mothers in pursuing a liberal arts education, and a scholars program for older women to study part time.

Conway holds 39 honorary degrees from North American and Australian colleges and universities and serves as a director of Colgate-Palmolive Co., and Nike, Inc. She has also served as director of Merrill Lynch & Co. from 1978-2007 and Lend Lease Corporation from 1992-2003, and served as its chairwoman from 2000-2003.

Generous support and commitment to Fall Arts Celebration 2010 have been provided by Ginny Gearhart and the Gearhart Family, Liesel and Hank Meijer, Elaine and Larry Shay, Judy and Peter Theune and media sponsor WOOD AM 1300. The lecture is open to the public with free admission. For more information about this or additional Fall Arts Celebration events, visit, or call (616) 331-2180. Learn about Grand Valley's 50th Anniversary at  


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