The late Dean Lesher wanted Walnut Creek to be a cultural hub, alive with the arts. But as a devoted newspaperman, taken in his younger days by the Chautauqua series on the East Coast, he also believed that civic literacy was essential to a functioning democracy. One of his dreams was that the Lesher Center for the Arts would showcase not only outstanding performances, but also powerful ideas and public discourse on important matters of the day.

In 2004 that dream became a reality when the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation honored their benefactor’s wish by granting $1 million to underwrite a new speaker series at the Lesher Center. The community responded: the first NEWSMAKERS series of 6 lectures sold out in days, and every season since has sold out in a matter of hours. We are so grateful to our subscribers for their unwavering support right from the start.

The Lesher Foundation enthusiastically continues to produce the NEWSMAKERS series. KTVU FOX 2 and Diablo Regional Arts Association continue to donate services. Each year these and other dedicated event partners help select speakers in politics, international affairs, journalism, sports, and entertainment to present an engaging array of topics.

Not only does the NEWSMAKERS series enlighten, entertain and provoke, it also promotes Contra Costa’s outstanding non-profit community. As part of each lecture, a non-profit organization serving Contra Costa County is highlighted. The organization receives 20 tickets to use for fundraising and gifts, and speakers regularly donate time for a private reception on their behalf. KTVU Fox Channel 2 generously produces a video highlighting the group’s accomplishments; we screen this video for the NEWSMAKERS audience and donate it to the charity.

Warm, engaging, intellectually curious; that’s how we see our audience. NEWSMAKERS is one of those rare not-for-profit series whose sole goal is to nurture a community of enthusiastic conversationalists, inspired to discuss important issues with family, friends, and neighbors.

We thank you again for your support and invite you to Join the Conversation! 



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Lesher Speaker Series 2007-2019