Grace A. Tanner Center
 

Grace A. Tanner Lecture in Human Values

Obert C. Tanner was an educator (Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah), industrialist and philanthropist. Of all the gifts he has left to universities, the one he was proudest of is the Lectures on Human Values. The Tanner Lecture on Human Values was formally established at the University of Cambridge, England on July 1, 1978. In writing about the purpose of these lectures, Professor Tanner said, “I see them simply as a search for a better understanding of human behavior and human values." To this end, the lecture provides a forum in which to promote scholarly and scientific learning in the field of human values while embracing moral, artistic, intellectual, and spiritual values—both individual and social—and advancing the full register of values pertinent to the human condition, interest, behavior, and aspiration. Accordingly, the lecture may involve the cultivation of ethical, aesthetic, and political theory and such matters as scientific research into the foundations of value behavior, whether in social, psychological, or natural sciences. The Tanner lecturers, therefore, may be drawn from philosophy, the sciences, the creative arts, and the various areas of statesmanship and leadership.

Announcing Changes to the 2020 Lecture

Emily Esfahani Smith was scheduled to deliver the 2020 Grace A. Tanner Lecture in Human Values on October 8, but her lecture will be postponed until October 2021 due to COVID-19. Her lecture will serve as the kick-off for “A Year of Grace,” celebrating forty years of the Tanner Lecture at Southern Utah University.

Emily Esfahani Smith

Emily Esfahani Smith is a writer in Washington DC. She draws on psychology, philosophy, and
literature to write about the human experience—why we are the way we are and how we can
find grace and meaning in a world that is full of suffering. Her internationally best-selling book,
The Power of Meaning, was published by Crown and has been translated into 16 different
languages. The Wall Street Journal called the book “persuasive,” “elegant,” and “valuable” while
the Prospect (UK) dubbed it “an intelligent page-turner.”

In 2017, Smith delivered a talk called “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy” on the main
stage of TED. It’s been viewed over 9 million times.

The former managing editor of The New Criterion, Smith’s articles and essays have appeared in
the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and other publications. Her articles for
The Atlantic “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy” (about the Holocaust survivor Viktor
Frankl) and “Masters of Love” (about romance and marriage) have reached over 30 million
readers. In 2017, the New York Times published her article about rethinking success called
“You’ll Never Be Famous—And That’s OK.” And her profile for the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine
of Joe Rago, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who tragically died at the age of 34, was
shortlisted for a Folio magazine award in 2018. In 2019, she was a Poynter Journalism Fellow at
Yale University.


Smith is also a reporter for the Aspen Institute's Weave project, an initiative founded by the New
York Times' David Brooks to address the problems of isolation, alienation, and division. At
Weave, Smith finds and tells the stories of people who are working to rebuild the social fabric.


Smith studied philosophy at Dartmouth College. She received her master’s degree in positive
psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she continues to serve as an assistant
instructor in positive psychology.


Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Smith grew up in Montreal, Canada. She now lives in Washington
DC with her husband, Charlie.