On May 13, 2019, Liberty Science Center honored five visionary women and men of science at our 8th Annual Genius Gala.
This annual star-studded event honors pioneers in science, technology, and innovation. This year, we honored Martine Rothblatt, pioneer of satellite communications and biotechnology and founder, CEO, and chairwoman of United Therapeutics; Chris Messina, inventor of the social media hashtag; and Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, the world’s leading experts on dyslexia and co-founders and co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.
We also presented the new Strides in STEM Award to supermodel, entrepreneur, and Project Runway host Karlie Kloss, who founded Kode With Klossy, a nonprofit that creates learning experiences and opportunities for young women in a tech-driven world.
Before the program began, attendees walked the red carpet, explored the galaxy in the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, met Gemo the robot, and enjoyed a virtual reality experience in PSE&G Court. Guests also had their photo taken on the Game of Thrones-inspired Iron Throne, which was made with programming tools right here in LSC’s MakerLab.
John Urschel, the former Baltimore Ravens center and guard and MIT doctoral student–and friend of the Science Center–signed copies of his new book “Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football.”
Attendees also headed to the third floor to experience a stunning new art piece in our Communication exhibition. The works were created by Nam June Paik, a Korean-born American artist who’s considered the “father of media art.” His creations experiment with video technology, and explore the idea of video allowing art to change and express different ideas as you look at it, unlike a painting that always says the same.
After the fun on the red carpet, planetarium, and beyond, guests headed to Governors Hall to enjoy the Gala ceremony.
Before the program began, attendees were given cards that highlighted young scientists who have been inspired by the Science Center, such as 8-year-old Taylor who dreams of being an astrophysicist, and 7-year-old Benjamin who dreams of being an engineer. These cards served as a reminder of LSC’s mission and what the Gala is all about: to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers and excite learners of all ages about the power, promise, and pure fun of science and technology.
The event began with remarks from Gala Co-Chair and President and CEO of Urby and Ironstate Development Company David Barry. "LSC's mission is key to New Jersey's economic future, which depends on more students going into STEM fields," Barry said.
Barry then introduced LSC President and CEO Paul Hoffman, who shared some incredible Science Center stats with the crowd. For example, did you know more than a quarter million K-12 students participate in our STEM education programs each year?
Since the event was the day after Mother's Day, Paul also highlighted some of the animal moms who reside at the Science Center, such as our queen bee and the two naked mole rat queens.
Paul was then joined on stage by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
"There's no jewel that shines more brightly than Liberty Science Center...it is an extraordinary institution," Murphy said.
Next, Paul was joined by Chirag Patel, a Genius Gala Corporate Chair and Chairman of Avtar Investments. Patel introduced our first Genius Award winner, Chris Messina, inventor of the hashtag.
"Arguably the best known symbol of social media is the ubiquitous hashtag, but did you ever stop to think there might have been a single person behind it?" Patel asked the crowd.
Messina, when accepting his award, chatted about how social media has changed our world. "Each of us stand an obligation to think about the things we post, the things we share...it all comes back to us individually and the things we contribute," Messina said.
After a break for dinner, John Urschel joined Paul on stage to introduce the first recipient of our Strides in STEM Award: Karlie Kloss, in celebration of her nonprofit, Kode With Klossy.
In introducing Kloss–whose career uniquely includes being both a supermodel and STEM enthusiast–Urschel made comparisons to his own career, having served as both a star football player and star mathematician.
"Too often people in this world are pigeonholed, and they're not told they can be diverse people with diverse interests, and that you can be great at multiple things," Urschel said.
Accepting the Strides in STEM Award, Kloss chatted about her passion for science, tech, engineering, and math.
"Some of my happiest memories are experiences like this, going to the science center...I always had this passion and curiosity around space and science as this way to understand the world around us," Kloss said.
Next, Paul was joined on stage by David M. Daly, a Gala corporate chair and president and COO of PSE&G. Daly introduced the next Genius Award winners, Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, the world's leading experts in dyslexia. But first, Daly listed some previous Genius Gala honorees and presenters that have dyslexia, such as Whoopi Goldberg, George Church, Richard Branson, and Jack Horner.
Accepting their Genius Awards, the Shaywitzes spoke to the crowd about the importance of understanding people with dyslexia, especially in children.
"Our deep hope is each of you this evening will help to understand dyslexia and remove the stigma...with dyslexia, you possess an extraordinary sea of strengths," they said.
Next, attendees enjoyed a live performance by violinist Charles Yang and pianist Peter Dugan, who have given stunning performances at many LSC events in the past. This time, they performed songs such as "Blackbird" by The Beatles and "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King.
Afterward, Gala Corporate Chair and Senior Vice Chair and Americas Deputy Managing Partner at EY Michael J. Inserra came on stage to discuss LSC's upcoming SciTech Scity.
"We believe SciTech Scity will help make New Jersey, the broader region, and the world around us, a better place," said Inserra.
Inserra then introduced the last honoree of the night: Martine Rothblatt, the “trans-everything” pioneer of satellite communications and biotechnology, and founder, CEO, and chairwoman of United Therapeutics.
Rothblatt, who has made a career out of achieving seemingly impossible tasks, spoke to the importance of positivity. "I think with the proper attitude, anything can be accomplished...we need to double down on places like LSC and speak out loudly about positivity and optimism," said Rothblatt.
Following the program, guests headed back to PSE&G Court to enjoy dessert and an afterparty. And there's no afterparty like a Genius Gala afterparty...because we have dancing robots!
LSC’s 8th Annual Genius Gala was another tremendous success! Head to our Flickr page to see all the photos from the program, cocktail reception, Iron Throne, and red carpet.
We wish to thank our entire Gala committee for making this event possible: David M. Daly, President and COO, PSE&G; Michael J. Inserra, Senior Vice Chair and Americas Deputy Managing Partner, EY; and Chirag Patel, Chairman, Avtar Investments. The co-chairs are David Barry, President and CEO, Ironstate Development Company and President and CEO, Urby; Sheri B. Bronstein, Chief Human Resources Officer, Bank of America; Brian Carlin, CEO, Wealth Management Solutions, JPMorgan Chase & Company; Jennifer A. Chalsty, Director, Advisory Council, James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, Johns Hopkins University; Kevin P. Conlin, Chairman of the Board, CEO, and President, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; Michael DeMarco, CEO, Mack-Cali Realty Corporation; Matthew D. Ellis, EVP and CFO, Verizon Communications; Joe Hand, Esq., EVP, Global Human Resources and Corporate Services, Celgene Corporation; Robert J. Hariri, MD, PhD, Co-Founder and Vice Chairman, Human Longevity, Inc. and Chairman, Founder, and CEO, Celularity, Inc.; Barbara G. Koster, SVP and CIO, Prudential Financial, Inc.; Bruce L. Levy, President and CEO, BMR Energy; Laura Bilodeau Overdeck, Founder and President, Bedtime Math; John Overdeck, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder, Two Sigma; Andrew Penson, Founder and Managing Director, Argent Ventures; Carlos Rodriguez, President and CEO, ADP; Gregory Tusar, Co-Founder, Tagomi Systems; and Josh S. Weston, Honorary Chairman, ADP.