Nationally-recognized activist and author Bryan Stevenson will speak at West Virginia University 7:30 p.m., Nov. 7 in the Mountainlair Ballrooms as part of the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas and the 2016-17 Campus Read.

Stevenson has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. His best-selling book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, was adopted by the Campus Read committee for the academic year and has been discussed in hundreds of classes. One of the country’s most acclaimed lawyers, he has received numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant. Students, faculty and staff have also had the opportunity to explore issues of race, poverty, mental illness and capital punishment through faculty panel discussions, theatrical performances, and art exhibits. There is also an upcoming film festival.

“Just Mercy has a powerful message and everyone who reads this book is affected by it,” said Sue Day-Perroots, associate provost for undergraduate education. “Stevenson eloquently points out the flaws in our criminal justice system through the true stories of defendants he has represented. The thoughtful questions and conversations it inspires is exactly what we want a Campus Read to do.”

Like many college students, Stevenson didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life even as his graduation date from Harvard Law School approached. An internship working with death row inmates changed his life. He has since won major legal challenges exonerating death row inmates and confronting the abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill. Stevenson has also successfully argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court including an historic ruling in 2012 that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

A law professor at New York University, Stevenson has been awarded the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties and the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights. He is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Institute Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson and his staff at EJI have won reversals, relief or release for more than 115 wrongly condemned death row prisoners.

“Throughout this book, readers are challenged to think about questions of justice and mercy, not just for the innocent but the guilty as well,” said Susan Lantz, chair of the Campus Read committee. “As I listen to the students’ comments and questions, I know this book had made an impact on their lives.”

The lecture is free and open to the public. Due to expected demand, tickets will be offered at the box office in the Mountainlair and at the Creative Arts Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4 and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7. Tickets are limited to one per person. The event will be streamed at

The David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas was created in 1995 by former WVU president David C. Hardesty, Jr. and is produced by University Events. It was inspired by events that he organized as WVU’s student body president in the 1960s. Today, the lecture series spans the academic year and engages a diverse group of newsmakers, public figures and thought leaders.



CONTACT: Susan Lantz, chair of Campus Read Committee,

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