Renaissance Weekend Convenes in Historic Charleston for 35th New Year's Celebration

Dec 28, 2015, 11:53 ET from Renaissance Institute

CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Renaissance Weekend, the non-partisan retreat founded in 1981 to build bridges among innovative leaders from diverse fields, commences tonight with an inter-faith remembrance service at Emanuel AME Church, the historic site of Charleston's horrific 2015 tragedy. Over the following four days, the 1,000 participants will engage in 500 lectures, seminars, discussions and performances, concluding with their traditional singing of "Auld Lang Syne" and "God Bless America" at the stroke of the New Year.

The tradition was founded and is hosted by former US Ambassador to the Court of St. James's Philip Lader and his wife, Linda Lader, a Presbyterian minister. The apolitical, non-partisan, invitation-only, off-the-record gathering of distinguished authorities and innovative leaders has been called "the grand-daddy of idea festivals."

"For 35 years," Ambassador Lader said, "Renaissance Weekend has continued to be a cross-generational conversation among accomplished individuals with widely divergent perspectives. Civility prevails, partisanship is frowned upon, and commercialism is banned."

"Though strikingly different views of politics, religion, media, science, and every other field are represented, there is more light than heat," added Lader, who this year stepped down after 15 years as Chairman of WPP plc, the world's largest advertising/marketing company with 189,000 people in 114 countries.

Originally an annual New Year's event, other Renaissance Weekends are organized by the Laders throughout the year. In 2016, these will be around Presidents' Day in Santa Monica, July 4th at Banff, Canada, Labor Day at the Aspen Institute, and Columbus Day in Napa Valley.

"Each Renaissance Weekend has sought, with equally distinguished participants, to build bridges across traditional divides of religion, politics and philosophies, generations, geography and personal backgrounds," Mrs. Lader explained.

The meetings are likened to the reunion of "an extended family" of prominent leaders in business and finance, education, the media, science, technology, government, law, medicine, religion, sports, non-profits and the arts. 

This year's gathering includes Nobel Laureates, MacArthur "Genius" Prize-winners, Olympic athletes, Oscar winners and major Hollywood producers, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, CEOs, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, astronauts, artists and scientists, university presidents and Rhodes scholars, U.S. Senators, judges, and diplomats, as well as non-profit and religious leaders.

More than 80 percent of this year's participants have attended regularly throughout Renaissance's 35-year history. Among those coming this New Year's will be several third-generation participants.

In response to more than three decades of Renaissance ideas and challenges, hundreds of participants entered public service, started businesses, founded non-profit organizations, and established private foundations. Also, more than two dozen marriages resulted from couples meeting at these Weekends.

Among this New Year's Renaissance Weekend participants are:

Physics Nobel Laureates William Phillips and Eric Cornell
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
Award-winning Harvard Genetics Professor George Church 
US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James
MacArthur Prize-winning Education Scholar Howard Gardner
Ireland's Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson
"Steve Jobs," "Grey's Anatomy" & "Quantico" Executive Producer Mark Gordon
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Reporter Charlie Savage
TV's "Limitless" and "Sleepy Hollow" Executive Producer Mark Goffman
Best-selling "Passages" author Gail Sheehy
Former Administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development Raj Shah
MIT Sociologist and best-selling author Sherry Turkle
Emmy-winning CNN Correspondent Parisa Khosravi
Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives Pat Conroy
Conservative Author & Pundit Richard Viguerie
Oscar-winning Pixar Film-maker/Software Creator Rob Cook
Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Gillian Sorensen
George Mason University President Angel Cabrera
Best-selling author & Georgetown University Linguistics Professor Deborah Tannen
vonHumboldt Prize-winning Physicist Chris Quigg
Former US Comptroller-General David Walker
Sex Therapist and best-selling author Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Former Dean of Washington's National Cathedral Samuel Lloyd
Cern Large Hadron Collider Physicist John Parsons 
Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan
Minaret of Freedom Institute's President Dean Ahmad
Harvard University China Authority Ezra Vogel
Disciples of Christ National President Sharon Watkins
Microsoft's International Research Director Peter Lee
National Rifle Association Executive Millie Hallow
Tufts University School of Nutrition's Dean Dariush Mozzaffarian
Former Brooks Brothers CEO William Roberti
University of Michigan RFID Authority Kevin Fu
Award-winning Rockefeller University Neurobiologist Donald Pfaff
Emory Business School Dean Erika James
Tradeworx President Arzhang Kamarei
Wharton Business School's People Analytics Authority Adam Grant
Former CNN Financial Anchor Myron Kandel
Yale University Theologian Lamin Sanneh

Illustrative lists of past participants, the history of the programs, information about the founders, and other details may be found at

Renaissance Institute
P.O. Box 22049
Charleston, SC 29413

SOURCE Renaissance Institute