News Item

'Henrietta Lacks' author Rebecca Skloot delivers Wyatt Lecture on Feb. 21

Jan 31, 2017

Members of the Lacks family will also speak on campus

Author Rebecca Skloot will deliver the 2016-17 Wilson W. and Anne D. Wyatt Lecture at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 21, at Bellarmine University.

Rebecca-Skloot-300pThe lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the George G. Brown Center’s Frazier Hall. A book signing follows at 8:30 p.m. The event was originally scheduled for last November, but was postponed because of an illness.

Skloot is an award-wining writer who specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, goldfish surgery and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. 

Skloot is best known for her first book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," a New York Times best seller. The 2010 book, which garnered many accolades and is being made into an HBO film by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, chronicles the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells were taken and sold without her knowledge. Those cells were vital for research and breakthroughs in the polio vaccine, gene mapping, cloning and in vitro fertilization.

Skloot’s book is also Bellarmine’s “book in common” for first-year students throughout the current academic year. 

Her Wyatt Lecture will address the ethical, scientific and racial issues raised by Lacks’ life, as well as the obstacles that her descendants continue to face. 

Two members of the Lacks family -- Victoria Baptiste and Alfred Lacks, Jr. -- will visit Bellarmine earlier that day for a conversation about the saga's impact on their family. That session -- also free and open to the public -- takes place on Feb. 21 at 11 a.m. in Frazier Hall. They will also participate in a question and answer session along with Skloot at the Wyatt Lecture that evening.

Skloot has a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction. Skloot has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh and New York University. She gives talks on topics ranging from bioethics to book proposals at conferences and universities nationwide. 

Skloot lives in Chicago and is currently working on a book about animals, humans, science and ethics, inspired by time she spent working as a veterinary technician in animal shelters and research labs.

Wilson W. Wyatt and his wife, Anne, founded the Wilson W. and Anne D. Wyatt Lecture Series in 1990 to bring nationally prominent speakers to Bellarmine and Louisville for discussions on politics and government. Past lecturers include former prime minister of the United Kingdom Sir Edward Heath, television news journalist Andrea Mitchell, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Seymour Hersh, journalist and author Jim Lehrer and Watergate journalist Bob Woodward. Skloot’s lecture will be the 16th in the series.

-- News release prepared by Christina Mudd, media relations intern

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