Ben Carson bows out of headlining Judson forum; school might postpone program to fall

With late notice, university might postpone program

Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has bowed out of keynoting Judson University's 2017 World Leaders Forum in April.

Carson is an emeritus professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He garnered global media attention as a top-polling candidate among the Republican nominees for president but withdrew his candidacy after a poor showing on Super Tuesday in March. Carson later threw his support behind Trump.

He notified Judson of his decision earlier this week to not appear at the forum.

"We understand that's pretty compelling," Judson President Gene Crume said. "That's why they are world leaders."

With Carson's withdrawal, officials are examining options to replace him with a speaker of similar stature, otherwise it would be a letdown, Crume added.

Judson's World Leaders Forum has been keynoted by several former heads of state: former President George W. Bush, former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Queen Noor of Jordan also have participated.

Typically, organizers have a list of a dozen to 20 candidates to consider.

"When a speaker has to decline this late in the process, it's really difficult to schedule someone that is of the stature of Tony Blair or Queen Noor," Crume said. "We're going to leave our option open in regard to whether we have the World Leaders Forum in the spring. We might switch the forum itself to the fall for the right speaker."

A new speaker will be announced early next year. Meanwhile, officials have contacted those who already bought tickets and corporate sponsors.

The forum is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 20 at the Judson University Herrick Chapel, 1151 N. State St., followed by a VIP reception at 5 p.m. in Chicago. Proceeds from the event support entrepreneurial programs and initiatives and student scholarships at Judson.

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