UB Distinguished Speakers Series to feature Joe Biden, Condoleezza Rice, Ronan Farrow and more

Composite photo of the 2018-19 UB distinguished speakers, Joe Biden, Peter Diamandis, LIsa Genova, Angela Davis, Ronan Farrow and Condoleezza Rice.

Release Date: August 22, 2018

Joe Biden.

Joe Biden

Peter Diamandis.

Peter Diamandis

Lisa Genova.

Lisa Genova

Angela Davis.

Angela Davis

Ronan Farrow.

Ronan Farrow

Condoleezza Rice.

Condoleezza Rice

“By harnessing their intellect and creativity for the greater good, each outstanding speaker in this year’s compelling lineup truly sets the bar for distinction. ”
UB President Satish K. Tripathi

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are among the speakers who will headline the University at Buffalo’s 2018-19 Distinguished Speakers Series.

The 32nd annual series also will feature innovator Peter Diamandis, founder of the XPrize Foundation; neuroscientist and best-selling author Lisa Genova; political activist and author Angela Davis; and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow.

“Our Distinguished Speakers Series is more than a proud university tradition,” says President Satish K. Tripathi. “It is an invaluable opportunity for all of us — students, staff, faculty and community members — to engage with contemporary thought leaders and innovative change-makers who inspire us to challenge our assumptions, explore the world from different angles and shape the narrative on our shared experience.

“Public research universities like UB play a critical role in addressing key social issues that impact our communities,” Tripathi says. “Our Distinguished Speakers Series achieves this by sparking thoughtful, informed dialogue with leading figures at the vanguard of the 21st century. By harnessing their intellect and creativity for the greater good, each outstanding speaker in this year’s compelling lineup truly sets the bar for distinction.”

The series will kick off Oct. 25 with Joe Biden, the 47th vice president of the United States. A senator from Delaware for 36 years before being elected vice president as Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008, Biden was a leading architect of domestic and foreign policy. He served as chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, and of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years.

As vice president, Biden oversaw implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which added 2 million jobs to the economy and made an unprecedented investment in America’s infrastructure.

He chaired the Middle-Class Task Force and oversaw the Obama administration’s Skills Initiative to improve federal workforce training programs. Biden also led the administration’s efforts to reduce gun violence.  

Since leaving the White House, Biden has continued his legacy of expanding opportunity for all with the creation of the Biden Foundation, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Biden Institute of Domestic Policy at the University of Delaware.  

He is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose.”

Peter Diamandis, an international pioneer in the fields of innovation, incentive competitions and commercial space, will appear on campus Nov. 14. In 2014 he was named one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune magazine. Diamandis’ XPRIZE Foundation holds incentivized prize competitions to push the limits of what’s possible, such as the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight.

He is also co-founder and vice chairman of Human Longevity Inc., a company focused on extending the healthy human lifespan, as well as executive co-founder of Singularity University, co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources, and co-founder of Space Adventures and Zero-Gravity Corporation. Diamandis’ mission is to open the space frontier for humanity.  

Diamandis’ lecture is sponsored by TIAA, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary of providing financial products and services to employees of nonprofits, including those in the academic, research, medical, government and cultural fields.

His talk will be live-streamed to a national audience, a first in the history of the series.

Lisa Genova, best-selling author of “Still Alice,” will speak on Dec. 6. She has captured a special place in contemporary fiction, writing stories that are equally inspired by neuroscience and the human spirit.

She is the author of the New York Times’ best-selling novels “Still Alice,” “Left Neglected,” “Love Anthony” and “Inside the O’Briens.” “Still Alice,” her novel about a Harvard professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, was adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore, who won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar for her role as Alice Howland.

Genova’s most recent novel, “Every Note Played,” was released this year. Her TED talk, “What You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s,” has been viewed more than 3 million times.  

She holds a doctorate in neuroscience from Harvard University.

Angela Davis will present UB’s 43rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration keynote address on Feb. 27. Through her activism and scholarship over many decades, Davis has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world. Her work has emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial and gender justice.

Davis has lectured throughout the U.S. and abroad, and has taught at several universities and colleges. She currently is Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness — an interdisciplinary PhD program — and of Feminist Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz.  She has authored numerous books, among them “Are Prisons Obsolete?” and “Abolition Democracy.”

Davis is the Graduate Student Choice Speaker.

Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow will speak on March 28. Farrow was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and named to TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2018” for his culture-shifting reporting for The New Yorker on Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment and abuse of power.

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize along with Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor of The New York Times, the Pulitzer committee recognized Farrow’s “explosive, impactful journalism ... spurring a worldwide reckoning about sexual abuse of women.”

In addition to his work for The New Yorker, Farrow has been an anchor and reporter at MSNBC and NBC News. Earlier this year, he signed an exclusive three-year deal with HBO to develop and be featured in a series of investigative documentary specials.

Condoleezza Rice will close out the series on April 17.  She served as the 66th secretary of state (2005-09) under President George W. Bush, becoming the first African-American woman — and just the second woman — to hold the post.

She previously served four years as Bush’s national security adviser, the first woman to hold that position. From 1989-91, she served on President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Council staff.

Rice currently is a professor of political science at Stanford University, where she served as the university’s provost from 1993-99. She is a member of the boards of Dropbox, C3 and Makena Capital, and is a founding partner at RiceHadleyGates LLC, an international strategic consulting firm.

In 1991, Rice co-founded the Center for a New Generation, an innovative, after-school academic enrichment program that later merged with an affiliate club of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BCGA). Rice is vice chair of the board of governors of the BCGA and a board member of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Biden and Rice share the designation of undergraduate Student Choice Speaker.

“SA is proud to once again continue our support and commitment to the Distinguished Speakers Series,” says Student Association President Gunnar Haberl. “The series provides a vital tradition at the University at Buffalo that allows students, faculty and the UB community to engage with notable and historical change-makers.

“It is an absolute honor to include Joe Biden and Condoleezza Rice in this year’s series,” Haberl says. “With notable speakers from both sides of the political spectrum, SA is proud to provide our students and the UB community a great opportunity to respectfully consider the diverse viewpoints that will be expressed by our student choice speakers.”

All programs are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. on UB’s North Campus.

Series subscriptions and individual lecture tickets will go on sale to the general public on Sept. 19. For more information on the speakers, subscription and ticket prices, and sponsors, visit the series’ website at http://www.buffalo.edu/ub-speakers.html.

The UB Distinguished Speakers Series continues to benefit from the vital support from a host of sponsors, including the program’s presenting sponsor, the Donald L. Davis Lectureship Fund, along with the undergraduate Student Association, which is the exclusive series sponsor for the 22nd consecutive year.

The Series also benefits from the generous support of affiliate series sponsors Hodgson Russ LLP, WGRZ-TV, the University Bookstore, the School of Management and the UB Graduate Student Association; contributing series and lecture sponsors include TIAA, MJ Peterson-Robitaille Relocation, Inspire Dental, United University Professions, The Communities of Giving Legacy Initiative, the UB MBA program, the School of Management Alumni Association and UB Athletics.

The series is also made possible by the generous support of the community through the purchase of series subscriptions and individual lecture tickets. No state funds, tuition dollars or general gifts to the university or the UB Foundation are used to underwrite the Distinguished Speakers Series.

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