Bodaken Philosophy Symposium launches March 26 with lecture by bioethicist Emanuel

Ancient Greek symposia were once a gathering of prominent members of society for an evening of music, food and vibrant discussion on literature, politics and philosophy. Symposia were held in private houses, providing an intimate setting for scholarly debate often portrayed on Greek urns and in theatre productions, as well as acting as the setting for two famous Socratic dialogues, Plato’s Symposium and Xenophon’s Symposium.

Symposium flyerWith roots buried deep in philosophical history, the Colorado State University Bodaken Philosophy Symposium seeks to provide that same rich philosophical discussion and an intimate space for educational exploration by welcoming top philosophers from around the world to speak on the CSU campus.

The inaugural Bodaken Philosophy Symposium lecture will be held on March 26 in the Lory Student Center Theatre on the Colorado State University campus.

“The symposium will elevate the reputation of the Department of Philosophy by bringing in top philosophers, who will present their cutting-edge research on a variety of critical topics of conversation and thought,” said John Didier, chair of the Department of Philosophy. “We anticipate that, as word of the symposium spreads, other renowned philosophers and other great minds and voices will attend and enrich the conversations.”

Inspired alumni generosity

The Bodaken Philosophy Symposium was established by Department of Philosophy alumnus Bruce Bodaken (’73), whose great passion for the discipline of philosophy and his education at CSU inspired his transformational gift. Bodaken continued studying philosophy after he graduated from CSU, earning a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Colorado and completing Ph.D. coursework before leaving academia for a career in the health insurance industry.

Bodaken recently retired as president, chairman and CEO of health insurance nonprofit Blue Shield of California. His long and successful career was groundbreaking, as he advocated for universal health care in California more than eight years before President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. Bodaken currently teaches part-time in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, where his courses focus on leadership ethics and health care topics.

“Alumni like Bruce are very special; he has said on many occasions that his training in philosophy was central to his successful career, and now he is giving back to ensure future generations have a similar opportunity to explore ideas and develop the skills that will help them in their future lives as well,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean Ben Withers.

Impact of the gift

Thanks to Bodaken’s generosity, the Bodaken Philosophy Symposium will host speaker events and workshops in the Department of Philosophy for the next five years. The two-part symposium will feature themed seminars and workshops for CSU students in the fall semester, followed by a large community lecture on the same theme in the spring semester. These visiting scholars will engage intensively with graduate and undergraduate students to enhance their understanding of the chosen theme and its connection to other philosophical discussions, better prepare them for their careers, and offer opportunities to connect closely with leading figures in the discipline of philosophy.

For the inaugural spring 2018 lecture, the Bodaken Philosophy Symposium welcomes a renowned bioethicist and health policy expert, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. Well-known for his controversial 2014 Atlantic article, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” Emanuel will expand upon his argument in his lecture, titled, “Why I (Still) Hope to Die at 75: Why the American Drive to Live Forever is Misguided.”

Bodaken and Emanuel have been longtime colleagues and friends through their work in health care policy.

“Zeke is both very bright and very entertaining,” Bodaken said. “I am excited that the CSU community will get the chance to hear what he has to say around current and developing policies, given all the controversy that exists around the current health care system and in the area of bioethics.”

Bodaken hopes that the Bodaken Philosophy Symposium will help increase the visibility of the good work being done in the Department of Philosophy, connecting top scholars directly with faculty and students.

“The symposium that Bruce has generously funded illustrates how disciplines like philosophy are important not only in themselves but as starting points for developing approaches to today’s seemingly intractable problems,” Withers explained. “Bruce has enabled us to bring to campus some of the world’s leading thinkers, like Dr. Emanuel.”


Join the Colorado State University Department of Philosophy for the inaugural Bodaken Philosophy Symposium lecture featuring Ezekiel Emanuel.

Monday, March 26

7 p.m. Lecture | 8 p.m. Q&A

Colorado State University

Lory Student Center Theatre

1101 Center Avenue Mall

Fort Collins, Colo.

The event is free and open to the public. RSVP by March 23 at

Questions? Contact Shannon Dale at