Philanthropists | Liberal Arts

Annual ATHENA Roundtable & Philip Merrill Award Gala

DARE TO BE WISE: Enlightenment and the American College Campus
  • Date

    October 27, 2023

  • Time

    9:00 AM - 9:30 PM

  • Location

    Ronald Reagan Building

    1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20004

ATHENA Roundtable Conference

9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m
Continental Breakfast – 8:30 a.m.; Catered Lunch – 12:00 p.m.
Ronald Reagan Building, The Rotunda, North Tower, 8th Floor 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20004

Enlightenment, Education, and Liberty
The focus of this panel will be the Enlightenment, a historical period that saw the birth of modern science, the creation of free markets, and the Founding of the United States of America. Our panelists will consider what made this flowering of intellectual freedom and progress possible, how it influences us today, and whether we are losing the Enlightenment values that gave rise to the modern world.

Moderator: Bradley Jackson, Vice President of Policy, ACTA.
Panelists: Alan Charles Kors, Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus of European History, University of Pennsylvania; Gordon S. Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus, Brown University; and Peter McNamara, Professor of Practice, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Arizona State University.

Enlightenment on Campus in the 21st Century
This panel will investigate the role that universities should play in maintaining and extending the Enlightenment. Panelists will consider the challenges to Enlightenment values brought on by new forms of censorship and illiberal campus politics. Proactive ideas to refocus universities on their educational missions will be considered.

Moderator: Douglas Sprei, Vice President of Multimedia & Campus Partnerships, ACTA.
Panelists: Ilana Redstone, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Faculty Director of the Mill Institute at the University of Austin; Pamela Paresky, Senior Research Fellow, Network Contagion Research Institute; and Molly Brigid McGrath, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption University.

Presentation of the Hero of Intellectual Freedom Award
Lunch will be served after the morning panels, and we will reconvene to present ACTA’s Hero of Intellectual Freedom award to Dr. Carole Hooven, former codirector of undergraduate studies in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and author of T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us. While favoring language that shows respect for individual preferences, in her scientific study of sex differences, Dr. Hooven refused to bow to the idealogues who deny basic biological fact.

Following the presentation of the Hero of Intellectual Freedom award, Charles Davis, president of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA), will lead a roundtable discussion: “The Best Gift Alumni Can Give: Free Speech on Campus.” Learn how the 19 (and growing) campus chapters of AFSA are protecting and reinvigorating the free exchange of ideas on campus.

Philip Merrill Award Gala

6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Cocktail Reception – 6:30 p.m.; Gala Dinner – 7:15 p.m.
Ronald Reagan Building, The Pavilion, 2nd Floor, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20004

ACTA will present our 18th annual Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education to Professor Alan Charles Kors. A distinguished scholar of European history, an award-winning teacher, and the co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Dr. Kors is the embodiment of the qualities that the late Philip Merrill envisioned when he established this award—namely, an indefatigable dedication to teaching the humanities and transmitting the values of Western Civilization to the next generation. Tributes to Dr. Kors will be given by Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, professor of politics, and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University; C. Bradley Thompson, professor in the Department of Political Science at Clemson University and executive director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism; and Allen C. Guelzo, American historian who serves as senior research scholar in the Council of the Humanities and director of the Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.

For questions regarding the events or ticketing, please contact Hanna Hotes at or (202) 467-6787.


A special rate of $349/night for conference attendees is available at the JW Marriott across from the Reagan Building at 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20004. Call (800) 393-2503 and request the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) room block or book directly by copying the following link into your browser: All reservations must be made by October 5.


The annual ATHENA Roundtable provides an opportunity for ACTA’s patrons to sponsor the event. Contributors may purchase tables at the Merrill Award Gala and receive special recognition. Please contact Jimmy Lewis at to discuss the available options. We are grateful for your support!

Download Sponsorship Form


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