Mitch Albom, Piper Kerman to headline ETSU Festival of Ideas Feb. 27-29

Published 11:12 am Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Bestselling authors Mitch Albom and Piper Kerman are headlining East Tennessee State University’s Festival of Ideas, which will be held Feb. 27-29.
Albom, who wrote the No. 1 bestselling memoir of all time, “Tuesdays with Morrie,” will speak on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m.
Kerman, author of “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” is the featured speaker on Thursday, Feb. 29, at 7 p.m.
Both events will be held at the ETSU Martin Center for the Arts and are free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Reserve tickets online at to hear Mitch Albom and Piper Kerman.
“The annual Festival of Ideas draws internationally and nationally known speakers to our region,” said Dr. Kimberly D. McCorkle, ETSU provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “This year, we are excited to welcome two authors who recognize the power of stories to shape culture, promote conversation and document the human experience.”
Albom is an internationally renowned bestselling author, journalist and philanthropist. His books, including “Tuesdays with Morrie,” have collectively sold more than 40 million copies in 48 languages worldwide. More recent bestselling titles include “Finding Chika” and “The Stranger in the Lifeboat,” which also debuted at No. 1.
His latest book, “The Little Liar,” was published in November 2023 and delves into the value of truth and the harm born from the lies we tell, told against the backdrop of the Holocaust.
Much like his books and presentations on stage, his nationally syndicated column at the Detroit Free Press offers accessible cultural commentary that invites readers to reflect on their own lives, values and the broader human experience.
He is the founder of SAY Detroit, an umbrella organization that is home to nine charities dedicated to improving the lives of Detroit’s underserved population. He also founded and operates the Have Faith Haiti orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which he has visited every month since 2010 without exception.
With over 20 years on ESPN, and through his work at the Detroit Free Press and as a panelist on The Sports Reporters podcast, Albom has been named the No. 1 Sports Columnist in the Nation by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) 13 times. He was honored with the APSE Red Smith Award for lifetime achievement, the biggest prize in sports journalism, and was inducted into both the National Sports Media Association’s Hall of Fame and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. Albom hosts two radio shows on WJR-AM and has appeared regularly on “The Today Show,” “Oprah,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “FOX and Friends” and many more. His articles have been featured in the New York Times, GQ, Sports Illustrated and Reader’s Digest.
Kerman’s bestselling memoir “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” chronicles her “crucible experience” – the 13 months she spent in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, after a brief involvement with drug trafficking sent her to prison on money laundering charges.
In her book, Kerman explores the experience of incarceration and the lives of the women she met in prison: their friendships and families, mental illnesses and substance abuse issues, cliques and codes of behavior.
Jenji Kohan adapted Kerman’s memoir into the groundbreaking Netflix original series, which has been credited with radically increasing the public’s awareness about mass incarceration and the growing female prison population.
Since her release, Kerman has worked tirelessly to promote the cause of prison and criminal justice reform. She works with nonprofits, philanthropies and other organizations committed to the public interest and serves on the board of directors of the Women’s Prison Association and the advisory boards of the PEN America Writing For Justice Fellowship, InsideOUT Writers, Healing Broken Circles and JustLeadershipUSA.
Kerman has spoken at the White House on re-entry and employment as a Champion of Change, as well as on the importance of the arts in prisons and the unique challenges faced by women in the criminal justice system. In 2014 she was awarded the Justice Trailblazer Award from John Jay College’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice and the Constitutional Commentary Award from the Constitution Project; the Equal Justice Initiative recognized her as a Champion of Justice in 2015.
The ETSU Festival of Ideas began in 2019 as an initiative to bring thought leaders from the region and beyond to campus. The event allows for the exchange of ideas, information and experiences for the university community.
This year’s Festival of Ideas will also include a campus read moderated panel discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 11:30 a.m. in the East Tennessee Room, located in the D.P. Culp Student Center. This discussion will focus on the ETSU Campus Read, “The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World” by Jamil Zaki, and the ways we can promote kindness in our communities. The book discussion is free and open to the public; no tickets are required for this event.

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