‘Changing the World through Innovation’ is topic of March 4 talk

John Kao

John Kao, author of “Innovation Nation,” and UNC alumnus Gary White, co-founder and chief executive officer of Water.org, will discuss “Changing the World through Innovation” in a free public talk March 4 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, co-author of “Engines of Innovation,” will moderate the discussion at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium (G-100) on the lower/ground floor of the Genome Sciences Building on Bell Tower Drive. No tickets or reservations are required. Free parking is available after 5 p.m. in the Bell Tower parking deck.

Kao and White come to Carolina as the 2013 Frey Foundation Distinguished Visiting Professors in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Kao has been dubbed “Mr. Creativity,” “a serial innovator,” and “the innovation sherpa.” He is chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council on Innovation and founder and chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation, a group of innovation leaders from around the world. He has written two books and three e-books about innovation and creativity. He has advised the governments of Finland and Singapore on their innovation strategies, as well as leading firms such as Nike and Intel.

Kao earned a B.A. from Yale College, focusing on philosophy, and an M.D. in psychiatry from Yale Medical School. He also has an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was asked to join the faculty during his first year of study there, and continued to teach for 14 years. He also is a jazz pianist, and he spent the summer of 1969 playing keyboards for rock legend Frank Zappa.

UNC alumnus Gary White

White and actor Matt Damon co-founded Water.org, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering people in the developing world to gain access to safe water and sanitation. White’s entrepreneurial vision has driven innovations in the way water is delivered and financed, and his approach now serves as a global model. To date, Water.org has served about one million people. White has counseled organizations such as the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the MasterCard Foundation, the PepsiCo Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation on responses to the global water crisis.

White has been inducted into the Philanthropy World Hall of Fame and was named an adviser to the Clinton Global Initiative. In 2011, TIME magazine included him on its list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Last year he won the World Social Impact Award from the World Policy Institute and was named a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year.  A graduate of UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, White received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the school’s alumni association in 2002.

The Frey talk complements UNC’s Water in our World initiative, a two-year interdisciplinary academic theme that is exploring diverse aspects of the importance of water to human and natural life and the ongoing challenges associated with water scarcity and pollution.

The Frey Foundation Distinguished Visiting Professorship was established in 1989 to bring to campus distinguished leaders from government, public affairs and the arts. UNC alumnus David Gardner Frey chairs the foundation established by his parents.