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by Kathryn Boughton

A star-studded cast that includes a former Secretary of State, Nobel Laureates, six Pulitzer Prize winners, four members of National Academies of Science, Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, and numerous winners of other literary and arts awards will converge on Kent on August 13 for a two-and-a-half-day ideas festival.

The program, the theme of which is What Comes Next?, is to be presented at Kent School and will run from the afternoon of August 13 through Saturday evening, August 15. It will look at the future of architecture, art, economics, education, energy, environment, food, global affairs, health and medicine, humanities, national affairs, performing arts, science, technology and other important issues of the day.

It is the brainchild of Benjamin Rosen, chairman emeritus of Compaq Computer and chairman emeritus and current life trustee of the California Institute of Technology, and his philanthropist wife, Donna Perret Rosen, a trustee of the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“My wife and I had the idea of doing something charitable,” said Rosen, adding that they drew their inspiration from the Aspen (Colorado) Ideas Festival. “We wanted to do something different,” he said.

All proceeds in excess of expenses are to go to charities to be decided by a local panel, he explained, noting that all of the illustrious presenters, who number more than 60, have donated their time. No executive salaries will be paid.

“It’s been a lot of work (arranging for speakers),” said Rosen. “We even have some coming from Europe. But we told them it was for charity and that Kent was a lovely place to come and visit.”

He said travel expenses are being underwritten for the presenters and that accommodations for them have been found throughout the county, from Salisbury to Washington. “We had to look at the whole county because the Four Seasons Kent Hotel has not been built yet,” he quipped.

Beyond the immediate charitable benefits of the ideas festival, Rosen sees it as an “engine of economic development” for the region. “We could become known as a center for ideas,” he predicted.

Rosen said some 300 attendees are expected, each paying $1,950. There are a few places still open and those wishing to attend can check availability by clicking on the link below.

The schedule of events is:

August 13: Registration starting at noon, with the formal kickoff at 4PM - two plenary sessions followed by a cocktail reception.

August 14: Continental breakfast followed by continuous parallel sessions, 8AM-6PM, including lunch; cocktail reception, entertainment and dinner on top of nearby Skiff Mountain 6-10PM.

August 15: Continental breakfast followed by continuous parallel sessions through 6PM, cocktail reception and dinner, 6-10PM.

There will be opportunities to relax and to converse with speakers and fellow attendees at coffee breaks, meals, cocktail parties and evening entertainments.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield has invited KentPresents attendees and speakers to a private tour and reception on Sunday, August 16 from 12-2PM.