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Discovering Us: 50th Anniversary Gala

Speaker(s): Sharal Camisa, Nina Jablonski, Kirk Johnson, Camilla Smith, Kelly Stewart, Chinyakare

May 3, 2018 @ 6:30 pm - 11:00 pm

Since 1968, The Leakey Foundation has supported scientists in their quest to discover what makes us human. Join us on May 3, 2018, at the St. Regis in San Francisco to celebrate the accomplishments of the past 50 years and explore the endless possibilities of the future.

“Discovering Us” will take you on an inspiring journey through some of many regions of the world where The Leakey Foundation funds research…from the painted caves of Europe to the jungles of South America, to the African savanna.

This very special evening will feature renowned scientists, a reception with a hosted bar featuring sparkling wine provided by Iron Horse Vineyards, a gourmet dinner with wine provided by Grgich Hills Estate, and South African music and dance performances by the Chinyakare ensemble.

Our program will be emceed by primatologist Kelly Stewart and will include remarks by Nina Jablonski and a keynote address by Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.

Our Young Professionals Group is hosting an after-party immediately following the dinner program. This exciting event will include two special virtual reality experiences – Lenovo’s virtual reality experience will let you visit Jane Goodall’s Gombe, and Dartmouth University will be bringing their Tarsier Vision Experience which will let you see the world through the eyes of a tarsier.

  • Proceeds from this event will help fund human origins research and outreach.
  • Every donation will be matched by a generous sponsor. Double your impact while enjoying an unforgettable evening!

This event will sell out quickly. Tables, sponsorships, and individual tickets are available now

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Thank you to our generous sponsors:

50th Anniversary Patrons

Gordon and Ann Getty, Camilla & George Smith

Platinum Sponsors

Nina Carroll, Collaborative Consulting, Alice Corning, Grgich Hills Estate, Austin and Sara Hills, Julie LaNasa and John Kunzweiler, Jeanne Newman

Gold Sponsors

Gianni Amato, Far Horizons, Carolyn Farris,  J. Michael and Sally Gallagher, Iron Horse Vineyards, Mark Jordan and Jennifer Gomersall, Diana McSherry and Patrick Poe, Bill and Debby Richards, Barry and Audrey Sterling, Cole and Judy Thompson.


May 3, 2018
6:30 pm - 11:00 pm
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The Leakey Foundation
Sharal Camisa

Executive Director, The Leakey Foundation

Sharal Camisa joined The Leakey Foundation in 2004 and became the Foundation’s director in 2006. Her path to becoming Executive Director included working in administrative, fundraising and outreach roles, which prepared her to lead an organization with the dual mission of funding research and offering educational outreach.

Highlights from her tenure include: working with a creative team; forging collaborative opportunities with George Washington University, the National Museums of Kenya, the American Museum of Natural History and the National Geographic Society; raising over $13 million; launching the podcast “Origin Stories” and four new granting programs; developing (and leading) tours to China, India, South Africa, France, Spain, Gibraltar, Germany, and Kenya; organizing and digitizing the Foundation archives; and sharing a loving friendship with Joan Travis.

Nina Jablonski

Nina G. Jablonski is a biological anthropologist and paleoanthropologist who is the Evan Pugh University Professor of Anthropology at the Pennsylvania State University. She is a Leakey Foundation grantee who has served on the foundation’s Scientific Executive Committee since 2016.

Her research on the adaptations of primates to the environment has embraced studies of Old World monkeys and of humans, and includes studies of fossils and of questions not easily answered by the fossil record, such as the evolution of human skin and skin pigmentation. She is the author of numerous scholarly papers and books, including her first book for children, Skin We Are In, published this year with noted South African writer Sindiwe Magona. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. She is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an honorary doctorate from University of Stellenbosch in South Africa for her contribution to the worldwide fight against racism.

Kirk Johnson

Keynote Speaker

Kirk Johnson is the Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He oversees more than 440 employees and a collection of more than 145 million objects—the largest natural history collection in the world. The Museum hosts more than 7 million visitors annually, and in 2017, its scientists published over 760 scientific research papers and described 275 new species.

Johnson is a paleontologist who has led expeditions in 11 countries and 19 states that resulted in the discovery of more than 1,400 fossil sites. His research focuses on fossil plants and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

He received a 2016 Kavli Science Journalism Award for his role as host of the three-part NOVA series Making North America, which aired on PBS networks in November 2015. Johnson most recently hosted The Great Yellowstone Thaw which premiered on PBS in June 2017. His latest book, Ancient Wyoming, explores the prehistory and geology of the Bighorn Basin.

Camilla Smith

President, The Leakey Foundation Board of Trustees

Camilla M. Smith first became involved with The Leakey Foundation after attending a lecture in the mid-1970s. She joined the board of trustees in 2004 and has served as president since 2015. Camilla comes from a family of educators, and she is passionately committed to supporting education in all forms. She is a world-traveler and has traveled with the Foundation to visit research sites across Africa, Asia, and Europe.

In addition to her work with The Leakey Foundation, Camilla serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, including National Public Radio, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the San Francisco Public Library, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Kelly Stewart

Kelly Stewart became aware of The Leakey Foundation in her teens through her parents Jimmy and Gloria Stewart’s support of the Foundation. She met Louis and Richard Leakey while on trips to Africa with her parents, and during her college years, she spent summers digging up fossils at Richard’s site at Lake Turkana. During these trips, she encountered wild gorillas in Congo, which shifted her interests from bones to living primates.

Kelly graduated from Stanford University with a BA in anthropology and earned her PhD in zoology from Cambridge. After Stanford, she went to Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda, where she met her future husband, Sandy Harcourt. Together they conducted projects on the behavior, ecology and conservation of gorillas, and co-directed the Karisoke Research Center while Fossey was in the States.

Kelly is a research associate in the anthropology department at the University of California, Davis. She was editor of the Gorilla Conservation News, and together with Sandy wrote the book Gorilla Society. Kelly serves on the advisory boards of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the African Wildlife Foundation, and the Mountain Gorilla One Health Program.


The Chinyakare Ensemble is a family of musicians, dancers and teachers committed to preserving and sharing traditional Zimbabwean culture, and promoting community building and education through music and dance. Chinyakare presents an electrifying performance of the traditional dance, music, and culture of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. The music (played on mbira, ngoma, marimbas, and chipendani), songs, and dance weave colorful stories that show scenes from everyday life, while teaching important life lessons, such as goal-setting, perseverance, and thankfulness. Chinyakare provides audiences with a glimpse of the beauty, excitement, and spirit of traditional African dance and song.