President’s Speakers Series opens with Science Foundation Arizona leader

Bill Harris

The leader of a statewide agency charged with advancing Arizona’s competitiveness in the medical, biotechnology and engineering fields will address the campus next week about the importance of investing in science at all levels of education.

William Harris, president and chief executive officer of Science Foundation Arizona, will kick off Northern Arizona University President John Haeger’s 2009-10 Speakers Series. His presentation, “Innovation and the Fork in the Road,” will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, in Ashurst Auditorium. A reception will follow.

The presentation will be webstreamed live at

Harris, a chemist who taught at Furman University before moving to the National Science Foundation for 18 years, was the founding director general of Science Foundation Ireland. He designed and led several industry/university research and development collaborative programs for the National Science Foundation, served as National Science Foundation director of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and vice president of research at the University of South Carolina. Harris also is an elected member of the Royal Irish Academy.

During his NAU presentation, Harris will address science as the cornerstone for a knowledge-based economy and the need to invest at all levels of education, including in teaching, research, economic development, community development and sustainability.

“Such investments are imperative in a global system marked by increasing competition,” Harris said.

Haeger said his annual speakers series is an opportunity to give considerable focus to major issues defining and influencing higher education and its changing mission.

“This year’s speakers will challenge us to ask how Northern Arizona University might position itself to advance its mission in light of issues influencing higher education,” Haeger said.

Four speakers are slated for the 2009-10 President’s Speakers Series. After Harris, Anthony Cortese is scheduled to speak at NAU on Nov. 3. Cortese is the president of Second Nature, a nonprofit organization with a mission to catalyze a worldwide effort to make healthy, just and sustainable action a foundation of all learning and practice in higher education. Two additional speakers will be scheduled to round out the series in the spring.