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Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School '97 Plymouth Meeting, Pa. Speakers brought to campus this year through Connaissance -- part of the student-run Social Planning and Events Committee -- included noted feminist Gloria Steinem, MTV Loveline hosts Dr. Drew Pinsky and Adam Corolla and actress and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. And billionaire Warren Buffett graced the stage of the Annenberg Center's Zellerbach Theater as well, as part of the Wharton School's Musser-Schoemaker and Zweig Executive Lecture series. Connaissance sponsors two major speeches annually featuring speakers of national prominence, as well as numerous other entertainment events. In past years, speakers have included actor James Earl Jones, talk show Conan O'Brien, singer Billy Joel and sportscaster Dick Vitale. Last fall's speaking engagement was a November 4 appearance by Steinem, one of the World Almanac's 25 most influential women in America. The 64-year-old Steinem, a writer and consulting editor for Ms. magazine -- which she co-founded in 1972 -- followed her 45-minute speech with an interactive question-and-answer session. During these last 40 minutes of her appearance, several of the 900 audience members in attendance at the sold-out show in Zellerbach stepped up to the microphone to ask the feminist pioneer about issues addressed in her lecture, "Acting Globally and Thinking Globally." But in February, the atmosphere at the Zellerbach shifted to the rowdy tone consistent with MTV's hit show Loveline when hosts Pinsky and Corolla brought their mix of sound medical advice and gleeful wise-cracks to Penn for another sold-out engagement early in the spring semester. The show, scheduled to coincide with Valentine's Day weekend as a part of the campus-wide Lovefest '99, provided an outlet for all manner of outrageous romantic concerns. In between Corolla's jokes and anecdotes -- which detailed everything from his own sexual experiences to the tale of a high school friend capable of expelling water from his rear end -- Pinsky advised curious students on problems including the repercussions of a coed roommate "threesome" and female orgasmic incontinence. The following month featured DeGeneres in a two-hour-plus event that received mixed student reviews. The Emmy Award-winning comedienne kicked off her time on stage with her characteristic dry humor, but soon got down to the topic which her speech's theme, "Ellen DeGeneres: Speaking Honestly," suggested. DeGeneres focused on homosexuality, both as it related to her own personal experiences and to her larger desire to change American society's perception and treatment of gays and lesbians. She especially expressed her dismay with the actions of many groups in what she referred to as America's "religious wrong," causing heated controversy within the audience. While many audience members appreciated DeGeneres' openness during the evening, some who had come expecting more material akin to her stand-up comedy were annoyed with the overall somber quality of the event. "I was disappointed because I wish that she had made us laugh," then-Nursing senior Zena Lobell said. In a turnaround representative of the diverse nature of Annenberg Center events, Buffett's April 21 lecture in Zellerbach catered to young, zealous Whartonites seeking the type of success that have earned the renowned chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. his enviable position as America's second wealthiest man.

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