2021 Gala Program

Guest of Honor

Marilyn Hawrys Simons received a B.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from SUNY, Stony Brook. She has volunteered in the non‑profit sector for the last thirty years. In 1994, she co‑funded the Simons Foundation together with her husband, Jim Simons, and served as its President until June 2021. The Simons Foundation funds research and educational programs in mathematics, physics and life sciences, in the United States and across the world. Both through the Simons Foundation and at a personal level, Marilyn Simons has supported programs promoting an increased diversity and improved equity in science and economics. In 2013, she was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy, for her extraordinary and pre‑eminent role in philanthropy. Marilyn is involved in various education initiatives and serves as a board member for many prestigious scientific institutions, including the American National Museum of Mathematics. Through the Simons Foundation, Marilyn Simons has played an essential role in supporting the IHES’ ambition to develop greater financial independence. In 1998 the Simons Foundation made the very first gift to the Institute’s endowment and has ever since promoted the Institute’s advancement through generous challenge gifts as well as unrestricted donations. Over the course of two decades, the Simons Foundation has given more than $25 million to both specific projects, such as the building of the conference center that carries the names of Marilyn and Jim Simons, and to the Institute’s endowment, for example for the creation of the Simons Foundation Biology Fund at IHES.

Honorary Guest Speaker

Janna Levin is the Claire Tow Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. She is also the Chair and Founding Director of the Science Studios at Pioneer Works. A Guggenheim Fellow, Janna has contributed to an understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves in the shape of spacetime. She is the presenter of the NOVA feature Black Hole Apocalypse, aired on PBS—the first female presenter for NOVA in 35 years. Her previous books include How the Universe Got Its Spots and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN/Bingham Prize. Her latest book, Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, is the inside story on the discovery of the century: the sound of spacetime ringing from the collision of two black holes over a billion years ago.

Master of Ceremonies

Gioia De Cari is an artist, women’s equality advocate, and “recovering mathematician.” Her national hit play, “Truth Values,” explores her personal story of her experiences in mathematics at M.I.T..  Called “hilarious” by WIRED, her award-winning hit play has been presented at more than 50 theaters nationally, including the La Jolla Playhouse, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York, among many others. On tour, performances of Truth Values have often been presented with post-performance Q&As and panel discussions featuring experts on women in STEM (some 85+ to date). Gioia became passionate about offering students a chance for the sense of community and opportunities for mentorship. These activities formed the basis for a companion educational program to the play, Truth Values Community, which was sponsored by M.I.T. and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Her other works include the Science Music Commissioning Project, which seeks to illuminate the human side of science through song.