The popular public lecture series at Salem State University is giving itself a flashy 30th-birthday bash, featuring guests of honor Anderson Cooper and Bobby Valentine.
University officials announced on Wednesday that the 30th annual Salem State Series will feature Cooper, the renowned journalist, author, and television host, on April 24 and Valentine, the new Red Sox manager, on Nov. 8. Valentine will appear in conversation with New England Sports Network’s Peter Gammons.
“I think it’s a significant year for us, it’s our 30th year and we really wanted to have a memorable program,’’ university spokeswoman Karen M. Cady said during a telephone interview last week.
The series was one of the first high-profile speaker slates in the country when it opened in 1982 with President Gerald Ford, journalist Douglas Kiker, and Henry Kissinger. The series has hosted other world leaders, artists, athletes, and intellectuals, including Bill Clinton during the 2000-2001 school year, the prime minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, in 1996-1997, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2002-2003.
About 7,500 patrons attend the series annually.
Cady said this year’s headliners rival some of their best years, including in 1994-1995, when some thought Colin Powell might announce his candidacy for president at the speaker series. That year also saw South African activist and retired Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu take the lectern.
“I think this is right up there,’’ Cady said of Cooper and Valentine.
The series has often featured controversial figures. Former US House speaker and current Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich headlined last year’s series along with novelist John Irving.
Cooper is known for his on-the-ground reports from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and well as his ability to moderate Republican and Democratic presidential candidate debates.
“Anderson Cooper has been on top of the wish list in our audience poll for years,’’ Cady said. “Once a year we do a poll to see who people would like to see and he’s been right at top of the list.
But because of the type of reporting he did for CNN where he was traveling all over world at a moment’s notice, we were never able to secure him.
“But now that he has a more predictable schedule we were able to get him. I think that will be an interesting evening.’’
Valentine replaced longtime Red Sox manager Terry Francona in December and will serve as the club’s 45th manager. Valentine led the New York Mets to a 97-66 record and a wild card playoff berth in 1999 and has worked as an analyst for ESPN during the American and National League Championship Series and World Series.
Valentine will be joined on stage by Gammons, a three-time recipient of the National Sportswriter of the Year Award, voted annually by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
“This just represents the new era of the Red Sox,’’ Cady said. “Obviously he’ll be here after his first year as manager is over, and I think that should be interesting. And with Peter Gammons, I think that’s going to be a lively conversation.’’
Both lectures will be at 8 p.m. in Salem State University’s O’Keefe Center at 225 Canal St.
Tickets, which will range from $10 for students to $100 for inner-circle seating for Cooper that includes a post-lecture reception with the speaker, went on sale Thursday. There are also general admission tickets for $20 and seats for $50 and $80 per person. Tickets for both presentations may be purchased online at www.salemstateseriestickets.com.