Professor giving a lecture to students in old main

Wofford president among 50 ‘remarkable people’ at TED

President Benjamin B. DunlapIcons. Geniuses. Mavericks.’ theme of Technology, Entertainment, Design event 

March 5, 2007

Click here to view the video of Dr. Dunlap's speech at TED. 

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The prestigious TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Monterey, Calif., this weekend will bring together 50 “remarkable people,” including Wofford College President Benjamin B. Dunlap, “and let them share whatever it is they are passionate about.”

Among the presenters will be former President Bill Clinton, former NBA star and author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann, and Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.

Dunlap will participate on Saturday in a session titled “Imagined Futures,” along with Katherine Fulton, president of Monitor Institute; humorist Tom Rielly; and Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid.  The conference begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday.

“The TED conference offers a sort of science-fiction premise: You have 18 minutes to address the most influential audience you’re likely to get in a lifetime, so what do you say?” says Dunlap, the only college or university president participant.  “This year, the speakers have been asked to address whatever they’re most passionate about.  In my case, that’s the indomitability of the freely inquiring mind, and I’ll make more than one reference to my experiences at Wofford College.  To be billed as among ‘50 of the most interesting people on the planet’ is quite frankly a little daunting, but I guess, if Bill Clinton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can do it, so can I.  Maybe I'll learn to dunk a basketball while I'm there."

TED brings together more than 1,000 “thought-leaders, movers and shakers . . . for four days of learning, laughter and inspiration.”  Previous TEDs have had broad content themes, such as “The Pursuit of Happiness,” “Inspired by Nature,” and “The Future We Will Create.”

With this year’s 50 “remarkable people” sharing their passions, TED organizers say this is what the conference “has always been about.  Bring together extraordinary people from every area of thought, work and culture, and lo and behold, astonishing connections are made, excitement and inspiration follow.

“It works this way because all knowledge is connected,” the TED Web site ( continues.  “Hearing experts in your field may deliver incremental improvements to what you do . . . but if you want the big breakthrough, the giant Aha . . . then you have to emerge from your trench, climb to higher ground and see the big picture.”

TED was created in 1984 by the observation by Richard Saul Wurman of a powerful convergence between technology, entertainment and design.  The first TED included the public unveiling of the Macintosh computer and the Sony compact disc, while mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated how to map coastlines with his newly discovered fractals and AI guru Marvin Minsky outlined his powerful new model of the mind.  While the organization faltered and it was six years before Wurman and his partner Harry Marks tried again, subsequent TED conferences have included a broader perspective.  Speakers have included Bill Gates, Frank Gehry, Jane Goodall, Billy Graham, Herbie Hancock, Murray Gell-Mann and Larry Ellison.

TED now is owned by The Sapling Foundation, a private non-profit foundation funded by media entrepreneur Chris Anderson.

See Spartanburg Herald-Journal article here.