He has been called a visionary, a guru, an iconoclast and a techno-philanthropist. Dr. Larry Brilliant’s career has spanned from a Himalayan monastery to the World Health Organization, Google’s philanthropic division and a series of nonprofits that have been remarkably effective at addressing public health problems around the world.
“What is ‘Sustainable Humanity’? It is not simply an economic construct. Human lives are more than double-entry bookkeeping and human progress is more than increases in GDP,” Brilliant says in describing his upcoming lecture. “Our generation should bequeath to the next a world where people live healthier, longer, better lives in a world of peace and fairness, what we often call a more humane world.”
Brilliant, who earned a Master of Public Health from U-M in 1977, will deliver the 10th annual Wege Lecture on Sustainability at U-M. The free lecture, titled “Sustaining Humanity,” will be his only speaking engagement this year. It begins at 3:30 p.m. March 16 in the Rackham Auditorium.
Currently the president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, a nonprofit organization working to address climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear conflict and Middle East conflict, Brilliant previously was a vice president of Google and the first executive director of Google.org.
He was one of a four-person United Nations’ team that led the successful World Health Organization smallpox eradication program in India and South Asia. Brilliant then established the Seva Foundation, an international organization that prevents and cures blindness through innovative medical technology and has restored sight to nearly 3 million people.
Brilliant chairs the National Bio-Surveillance Advisory Subcommittee and is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Advisory Council on Catastrophic Risks. He also has written two books and dozens of scientific articles on infectious diseases, blindness and international health policy.
Recent awards include Time’s 100 Most Influential People and top 20 Scientists and Thinkers, UN Global Leadership Award, TED Prize, Peacemaker Award, International Public Health Hero and two honorary doctorates.
Brilliant, who earned a medical degree from Wayne State University, also has been a professor of international policy and epidemiology at U-M.
The Wege Lecture Series was founded in 2001 in honor of Peter M. Wege, the retired vice chairman of the board of Steelcase Inc. in Grand Rapids. Speakers address sustainability challenges, with a focus on improving the systems for meeting human needs in developed and developing countries. Past speakers have included His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Al Gore, John Holdren and Lord Browne of Madingley.
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