2021 National Conference
2021 CLS National Conference Featured Speakers

This year’s event will feature Lee Strobel, Professor Ruth Okediji, James K.A. Smith, and Laudir Lugo. 

James K.A. Smith, Thursday Evening

James K. A. Smith is a professor of philosophy at Calvin University, where he holds the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. Trained as a philosopher with a focus on contemporary French thought, Smith has expanded on that scholarly platform to become an engaged, public intellectual and cultural critic. An award-winning author and a widely-traveled speaker, he has emerged as a thought leader with a unique gift of translation, building bridges between the academy, society, and the church.

The author of a number of influential books, Smith’s writing has also appeared in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York TimesThe Washington Post, and USA Today, as well as in magazines such as AmericaThe Christian Century, Christianity Today, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and LitHub. He serves as editor in chief of Image, a quarterly journal at the intersection of art, faith, and mystery.

He and his wife, Deanna, are elementary school (!) sweethearts with four adult children and (so far) three children-in-law. Natives of Stratford, Ontario, they lived in Philadelphia and Los Angeles before settling in the Heritage Hill neighborhood of Grand Rapids. They are committed urban dwellers who enjoy gardening, travel, wine with friends, and curling up on the couch with their Maltipoo, Kirby.

Ruth Okediji, Friday Evening

Ruth L. Okediji is the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She teaches courses in law and technology, intellectual property (IP), and contracts. 

Professor Okediji has written widely on a range of matters related to technology transfer, innovation policy, global knowledge governance, and sustainable economic development. Her current research focuses on publicly-funded technologies, the regulation of platforms, access to essential medicines, and ethical considerations in biotech regulation. Professor Okediji’s published books include the seminal casebook, International Patent Law and Policy (Aspen Law, 2013, 2nd edition forthcoming, 2021), as well as Copyright Law in an Age of Limitations and Exceptions (OUP, 2017). She is a reviewer and editor of the Journal of World Intellectual Property.

Professor Okediji has served as an advisor to many inter-governmental organizations and national governments on copyright and patent policies, government use of data, and access to pharmaceutical products. She served on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committee on the Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era. In 2015-2016, she was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the High-Level Panel on Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines. She was recognized in that same year by Managing IP as one of the world’s 50 most influential people in intellectual property law. She currently serves as the co-chair of the NASEM Committee focused on improving commercialization of digital products from National Labs. 

Over the course of her career, Professor Okediji has been recognized with numerous teaching and service awards including the Regents Superior Teaching Award, the Student Bar Association’s Outstanding Professor Award, and Harvard Law School’s Women’s Law Association Shatter the Ceiling Award (twice). She is also the 2019 recipient of the Public Knowledge IP3 Award.

Lee Strobel, Saturday Evening

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books and curricula that have sold fourteen million copies in total. He currently serves as the founding director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. 

Lee has been described in The Washington Post as “one of the evangelical community’s most popular apologists.” He was educated at the University of Missouri (Bachelor of Journalism) and Yale Law School (Master of Studies in Law). He was a journalist for fourteen years at The Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, winning Illinois’ highest honors for both investigative reporting and public service journalism from United Press International. 

After probing the evidence for Jesus for nearly two years, Lee became a Christian in 1981. He subsequently became a teaching pastor at three of America’s largest churches and hosted the national network TV program Faith Under Fire. In addition, he taught First Amendment law at Roosevelt University and was Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University.

In 2017, Lee’s spiritual journey was depicted in an award-winning motion picture, The Case for Christ, which showed in theaters around the world. The movie was on Netflix for three years. Lee won national awards for his books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for Grace. His latest book is The Case for Miracles. His next book, The Case for Heaven, debuts in mid-September 2021, and is currently available for pre-order.

The Christian Post named Lee among the top evangelicals who had made an impact in 2017. He was selected as one of the thirty most influential Christian thinkers of the past two millennia in the 2019 book Faith Thinkers, written by Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Jr. 

Lee and Leslie have been married for forty-eight years. Their daughter, Alison, is a novelist, and their son, Kyle, is a professor of spiritual theology at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.

Laudir Lugo, Sunday Morning

Laudir is a Christian minister and organizational leader with over twenty years of experience. He currently works and serves as a regional director for Young Life, leading the mission to reach and teach kids with the hope of Jesus Christ in the South Texas Region. Skilled in intercultural relations, organizational change, and transformational leadership, Laudir is a professional with a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Nyack College. He also teaches courses as an adjunct faculty member for the Business School of Texas A&M University in San Antonio.

In 2021, Laudir and Sarai Lugo celebrate twenty-seven years of marriage. They moved to the San Antonio area from Chicago in 2018. They have both fallen in love with the people and culture in South Texas and are passionate about serving and helping others thrive and experience fullness of life.



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