Mary S. Stern Lecture


Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Humanities Medal recipient, and author of the New York Times bestsellers “The Warmth of Other Suns,” and “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” is the 2023 Mary S. Stern Lecture Series Speaker!

Wilkerson will speak on October 5 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Tickets, available for purchase between $5-$15, will go on sale this August. For the latest information visit the Stern Lecture webpage.

Wilkerson’s ability to thoughtfully explore the depths of societal issues will be at the focus of this year’s lecture as she discusses her bestselling book, “The Warmth of Other Suns.” With her captivating storytelling and meticulous research of the Great Migration, Wilkerson will delve into the intricate dynamics of race, identity, and social hierarchies. 

“Wilkerson’s work,” in the words of The American Prospect magazine, “is the missing puzzle piece of our country’s history.”

“The Warmth of Other Suns” won the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors, and was named to more than 30 Best of the Year lists, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker and The Washington Post. TIME Magazine named it one of the “10 Best Non-Fiction Books” of the decade. The New York Times Magazine named Warmth to its list of the best nonfiction books of all time.

Her new book, “Caste: The Origins of our Discontents,” was published in August 2020 to critical acclaim and became a Number 1 New York Times bestseller. Dwight Garner of The New York Times called it, “An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.” Oprah Winfrey chose it as her 2020 Summer/Fall book club selection, declaring it “the most important book” she had ever selected.

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her deeply humane narrative writing while serving as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Wilkerson the National Humanities Medal for “championing the stories of an unsung history.”

The late Mary S. Stern endowed an annual lecture series for the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library through The Library Foundation to support bringing internationally renowned thought leaders to our community. As part of Stern’s lasting legacy, tickets for the lecture series are priced to ensure today’s renowned thinkers are accessible to as many people as possible. Tickets for this year’s lecture featuring Isabel Wilkerson will be priced between $5-15 and go on sale in August.

Photo Credit: Annie Leibowitz

Photo Credit: Annie Leibowitz


Walter Isaacson was the 2022 Mary S. Stern Lecture speaker, that took place at the Aronoff Center for the Arts on October 6.

Acclaimed historian, journalist, and biographer Walter Isaacson recounts with signature insight the gripping medical revolution led by Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna. Isaacson expertly examines the minds and lives of political, cultural, and medical icons and how their legacies can provide insight in modern times.

Walter Isaacson is a Professor of History at Tulane and an advisory partner at Perella Weinberg, a financial services firm based in New York City. He is the past CEO of the Aspen Institute, where he is now a Distinguished Fellow, and has been the chairman of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine. Isaacson’s most recent biography, The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race (2021) offers a gripping account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.

He is also the author of Leonardo da Vinci (2017), The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (2014), Steve Jobs (2011), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986). He is a host of the show “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and CNN, a contributor to CNBC, and host of the podcast “Trailblazers, from Dell Technologies.”


Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke on October 5, 2021, at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

Goodwin is a presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. She brings history alive with an uncanny sense for detail and a master storyteller’s grasp of drama and depth as she examines the leadership triumphs, trials and tribulations of the men and women who have shaped this nation, culled from her lifetime examination of the U.S. presidency.

In advance of this year’s lecture and through December 30, 2021, the Library is exhibiting its collection of Lincoln letters and memorabilia in the Cincinnati Room. The Library is also offering several book clubs and community forums focusing around the central themes of leadership found in Leadership in Turbulent Times.


Our inaugural Mary S. Stern lecturer was Bryan Stevenson (2019), author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. His work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize. Stevenson has received 29 honorary doctoral degrees including degrees from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Oxford University. His critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, has been awarded several honors including the Carnegie Medal by the American Library Association for the best nonfiction book of 2014 and a 2015 NAACP Image Award.

Bryan Stevenson
Photo Credit: Nina Subin

Mary S. Stern

About the Mary S. Stern Lecture Series

The Library Foundation is the grateful beneficiary of an endowed fund from the late Mary S. Stern to be used for an annual lecture series for the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library.  The series will bring internationally renowned thought leaders to the Cincinnati community.  Formed in 2018, the Mary S. Stern Lecture Committee selects the lecture topic and presenter who can honor her legacy by advancing the Library’s mission to connect our community with a world of ideas and information.  The committee is committed to making the topic and speaker accessible to the community physically and financially.

The Mary S. Stern Lecture Committee members are Sandy and Peter Stern, Betsy Sittenfeld, Tony Covatta, and Vicky and Rick Reynolds.