Learning Through Research




2017 Plenary Speakers


Frederick W. Smith

Frederick Smith

Thursday, April 6
9:30 am – 11:00 am
Michael Rose Theatre


Frederick W. Smith is chairman and CEO of FedEx Corp., a $58* billion global transportation, business services, and logistics company.

Smith is responsible for providing strategic direction for all FedEx Corp. operating companies, including FedEx Services, FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, and FedEx Freight. Since founding FedEx in 1971, he has been an active proponent of regulatory reform, free trade, and “open skies agreements” for aviation around the world. Most recently, he has advocated for vehicle energy-efficiency standards and a national energy policy.

Smith has received numerous civic, academic, and business awards, including the Global Leadership Award from the U.S.-India Business Council, the George C. Marshall Foundation Award, and the Circle of Honor Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. In addition, he is a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame, served as co-chairman of both the U.S. World War II Memorial Project and the campaign for the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and was named a top CEO by Barron’s and Chief Executive magazines.

Born in 1944 in Marks, Mississippi, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1966. He served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to 1970.

*Based on December 2016 data.

Santosh Kumar

Santosh Kumar

Friday, April 7
10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Michael Rose Theatre

Santosh Kumar is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Memphis where he holds the Lillian & Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence. His research focusses on mobile health (or mHealth). He and his students have developed computational models to infer human health and behavior such as stress, conversation, smoking, craving, and cocaine use from wearable sensor data. He leads several large multidisciplinary projects in mHealth funded by both National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF). He currently leads federally-funded national Center of Excellence on Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge (MD2K) that involves over 20 scientists in computing, engineering, behavioral science, and medicine from 12 universities. He was named one of America’s ten most brilliant scientists under the age of 38 by Popular Science in 2010. In 2013, he was invited to speak at the White House on the future of biosensors. In 2015, he was invited by NSF to speak about his career to aspiring investigators in smart health as a role model scientist. In 2015, he was named Tennessee’s first chair of excellence in Computer Science.


Terri Lee Freeman and Daphene R. McFerren

Terri Lee Freeman   Daphene McFerren

Saturday, April 8
10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Michael Rose Theatre

Terri Lee Freeman and Daphene McFerren are the featured speakers on day three of NCUR 2017.

Freeman was appointed president of the National Civil Rights Museum in November 2014. As president, she is responsible for providing strategic leadership in furthering the museum’s mission as an educational and cultural institution.

For 18 years, Ms. Freeman served as president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the largest funder of nonprofit organizations in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.  In that position, she distinguished herself for her community building, her role in creating community consensus, her leadership on critical issues to improve quality of life, and her record of increasing the Community Foundation’s assets from $52 million to more than $350 million.  She has a record of using her skills and experience to bridge differences between diverse people and finding common ground for the future, as reflected in a number of awards and her board leadership and membership with important nonprofit organizations in the nation’s capital.

Prior to the Community Foundation, Ms. Freeman was founding executive director of the Freddie Mac Foundation, one of the five largest corporate foundations in the metropolitan Washington region.

A graduate of the 2016 class of Leadership Memphis, Ms. Freeman has serves on several boards. She is a member of the Boards of the Community Foundation for Greater Memphis, the New Memphis Institute, and the Memphis Visitors’ and Convention Bureau.  She also serves as a member of the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition Steering Committee.

McFerren is the executive director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. McFerren manages the Hooks Institute's strategic planning; program creation and implementation; local and national fundraising efforts; and work on behalf of the Hooks Institute staff, faculty, and contractors. McFerren is responsible for creating budgets for Hooks Institute programs and monitoring program expenses to ensure that financial targets are met. She is the primary media contact for the Hooks Institute and has made numerous television and radio appearances to promote its work.

McFerren was the executive producer of the film Duty of the Hour, a film about the life of Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks. She is also the executive producer, director, and narrator of the award-winning documentary short, The Civil Rights Movement: A Cultural Revolution, winner of the Silver and Bronze Annual Telly Awards (36th Annual Competition, 2015); The People's Telly (2015) and The Best Shorts Competition (Award of Merit, 2015). In fall 2016, McFerren taught a Helen Hardin Honors Program course on Civil and Human Rights that focused on how the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s continues to shape movements today, including the BlackLivesMatter Movement and human rights movements both in the United States and abroad.

McFerren was a 1995 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Research Award recipient. Prior to joining the Hooks Institute, McFerren litigated complex civil litigation matters in private practice and with the U.S. Department of Justice. She is also a former federal prosecutor and secured convictions in human trafficking cases of national and international interest. From 1999 to 2001, McFerren served as counsel to the Honorable Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States.