Past Speakers

Initially, the speakers series was designed to attract alumni and the community to UB's relatively new North Campus.  At that time, it featured a number of highly regarded experts in the fields of politics and the presidency. Since then, the programs have expanded to include internationally renowned scientists, authors, media experts and other luminaries—all of whom continue to bring thousands of people to UB each year.

Video Highlights

2016-17 Season Speakers


* Denotes speakers featured as part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration programming.

  • Mark Kelly and Scott Kelly - Commander of Two NASA Shuttle Missions & America’s 1st Astronaut to Spend a Year in Space
  • Randi Zuckerberg - Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media; Former Director of Marketing at Facebook
  • John Cleese - Famed Film and Television Comic Actor
  • *Eric H. Holder, Jr. - 82nd Attorney General of the United States (2009-15)
  • Roxane Gay - Bestselling Author, Cultural Critic and Professor
  • Brandon Stanton - Creator of “Humans of New York” (HONY)

See All Previous Seasons' Speakers

* Denotes speakers featured as part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration programming.

2015-2016

  • Laverne Cox – Transgender Advocate and Award-Winning Actress
  • Liz Murray - Author of the 2016 UB Reads Selection "Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard”
  • John Legend – Academy Award-Winning Songwriter, Singer, Musician, Producer, Philanthropist and Entrepreneur
  • * Charles Ogletree – Internationally Renowned Legal Theorist
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee – Cancer Physician, Researcher and Author of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer”
  • Kevin Spacey – Academy Award-Winning Actor, Star of "House of Cards," Producer, and Former Artistic Director of London's Old Vic Theatre

 

2014-2015

  • Cheryl Strayed - Author of the New York Times #1 Bestseller, "Wild"
  • Wes Moore - Youth Advocate and Combat Veteran; Author of the 2015 UB Reads Selection: "The Other Wes Moore"
  • John Oliver - Comedian, Political Satirist and Star of HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver"
  • * Earvin "Magic" Johnson - NBA Hall-of-Famer, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
  • Robert Ballard - Oceanographer and Discoverer of the Titanic
  • Steve Wozniak - Cofounder of Apple Computer, Inc. and Chief Scientist of Primary Data

 

2013-2014

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton - Former Secretary of State and Former U.S. Senator from New York
  • Michio Kaku - Theoretical Physicist and Bestselling Author
  • Malcolm Gladwell - Best-selling Author and Staff Writer for The New Yorker; Author of the 2013 UB Reads Selection: "The Tipping Point"
  • * Mary Frances Berry - Author, Educator and Historian
  • * Diane Nash - Civil Rights and Peace Activist
  • Sanjay Gupta - Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN
  • David Blaine - Endurance Artist and World Renowned Magician

 

2012-2013

  • David Brooks - OpEd Columnist, New York Times; Political/Social Analyst, "PBS NewsHour" and NPR's "All Things Considered"
  • Laura Bush - First Lady of the United States, 2001-2009; Advocate for Education, Health Care and Human Rights
  • Blake Mycoskie - TOMS Founder and Chief Shoe Giver; Author of the 2012 UB Reads Selection: "Start Something That Matters"
  • * Walter Mosley - Novelist and Social Commentator
  • Steven Pinker - World Renowned Cognitive Scientist
  • Steve Martin - Actor, Comedian, Author, Playwright, Producer and Musician

 

2011-2012

  • Robert Gates - U.S. Secretary of Defense (2006-11)
  • Michael J. Fox - Award-Winning Actor; Founder of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
  • Judy Shepard - Activist; Author of the 2011 UB Reads Selection - "The Meaning of Matthew"
  • * Soledad O'Brien - CNN Anchor and Special Correspondent
  • Mary Robinson - President of Ireland (1990-97); Past U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Lance Armstrong - Seven-Time Tour de France Winner; Founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation

 

2010-2011

  • Arianna Huffington - Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post
  • Mary Matalin - Political Strategist; Contributor, CNN
  • Sylvia Earle - Oceanographer; Explorer; Author
  • Greg Mortenson - Co-Author of the Best-Selling, 2010 UB Reads Selection - "Three Cups of Tea"
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger - 38th Governor of California
  • Jhumpa Lahiri - Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author
  • * Cory Booker - Mayor of Newark, New Jersey
  • J. Craig Venter - Pioneering Genomic Researcher

 

2009-2010

  • Kofi Annan - Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997 - 2006), Nobel Peace Prize Recipient
  • Tony Blair - Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1997 - 2007)
  • Steve Lopez - Author of the 2009 UB Reads Selection - "The Soloist: A Lost Dream, An Unlikely Friendship, and The Redemptive Power of Music" and LA Times Columnist
  • * Cornel West - Scholar, Public Intellectual and Best-Selling Author
  • Margaret Atwood - Booker Prize-Winning, Best-Selling Author
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson - Astrophysicist, Host of PBS's "NOVA scienceNOW," F.P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History, and Best-Selling Author
  • Bill Maher - Political Satirist, Host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" and Best-Selling Author

 

2008-2009

  • Karl Rove - Former Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush
  • Wesley Clark - Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and 2004 Presidential Candidate
  • Khaled Hosseini - Best-Selling Author of the UB Reads 2008 Book Selection: "The Kite Runner"
  • Jon Stewart - Host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show"
  • * Donna Brazile - Chair of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute
  • Anna Quindlen - Newsweek Columnist, Social Critic and Author
  • Bill Nye - Scientist, Comedian and Author

 

2007-2008

  • Michael Moore - Academy Award-Winning Documentarian
  • Ishmael Beah - Human Rights Activist, Best-Selling Author of A" Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier"
  • Steven Levitt - Award-Winning Economist, Best-Selling Author of "Freakonomics"
  • * Harold Ford, Jr. - Chair, National Democratic Leadership Council, Former U.S. Representative, D-Tenn.
  • Tina Brown - Best-Selling Author of "The Diana Chronicles," Former Editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker
  • Stephen Colbert - Host of "The Colbert Report" and Best-Selling Author of "I Am America (And So Can You!)"

 

2006-2007

  • The Dalai Lama - The Head of state in exile of Tibet and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people
  • Anderson Cooper - Journalist and Host of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360°"
  • * Wangari Maathai - 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate and Green Belt Movement founder
  • Jean-Michel Cousteau - Ocean Explorer and Environmentalist
  • Al Gore - Former U.S. Vice President, Author and Activist

 

2005-2006

  • Alex Kotlowitz - Critically Acclaimed Author
  • Colin Powell - Former U.S. Secretary of State
  • Brian Greene - Physicist and Groundbreaking String Theorist
  • * Tavis Smiley - Host, "The Tavis Smiley Show" on PBS and "The Tavis Smiley Show" from PRI
  • Laurie Garrett - Pulitzer-Winning Expert on Global Health Care, Disease Prevention & Bioterrorism
  • Conan O'Brien - Comedian and Host of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien"

 

2004-2005

  • Donald Trump - Chairman & President of The Trump Organization, Producer & Star of "The Apprentice"
  • Steven Squyres - Principal Investigator, NASA Mars Exploration Rover Project
  • Barbara Ehrenreich - Critically Acclaimed Author and Journalist
  • Bob Woodward - Political Investigative Reporter & Author
  • Janet Reno - Former U.S. Attorney General
  • Ann Coulter - Author, Columnist & Political Commentator
  • * Dr. Michael Eric Dyson - Scholar/Best-Selling Author
  • Salman Rushdie - Internationally Acclaimed Novelist & Public Intellectual

 

2003-2004

  • Antwone Fisher - Hollywood Producer/Screenwriter and Author of "Finding Fish" (the 2003 book selection of the UB Reads Program)
  • Wolf Blitzer - CNN News Anchor and UB Alumnus
  • Bill Cosby - Comedian, Actor, Author and Humanitarian
  • Joyce Carol Oates - Best-Selling and Critically Acclaimed Author, Professor
  • * Kweisi Mfume - NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer, AND 
J.C. Watts - Former Congressman and Pioneering Republican Visionary
  • Tim Russert - NBC Senior Vice President, Producer and Moderator of "Meet the Press"

 

2002-2003

  • Katie Couric - Co-Anchor of NBC's "Today Show"
  • Rudy Giuliani - 107th Mayor of New York City
  • * Mae Jemison - Astronaut, Physician, Engineer and Entrepreneur
  • Amy Tan - Acclaimed Best-Selling Author
  • Bill Bradley - Political Visionary and Former U.S. Senator

 

2001-2002

  • Ken Burns - Celebrated Filmmaker
  • * Stephen L. Carter - Scholar, Author and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Yale University
  • Madeleine Albright - 64th Secretary of State
  • Jane Goodall - The Great Conservationist

 

2000-2001

  • John Glenn - American Legend
  • Mary Higgins Clark - Best-Selling Author
  • Dick Vitale - Basketball Guru
  • * Sidney Poitier - Oscar-Winning Author and Actor
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin - Pulitzer Prize-Winning Historian, Author and TV Commentator

 

1999-2000

  • George Bush - Former President of the United States
  • Bill Moyers - Journalist
  • George Stephanopoulos - Political Scientist
  • Alice Walker - Poet, Novelist, Short Story Writer, Essayist and Biographer

 

1998-1999

  • General Colin Powell - Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Presidential Advisor and Author
  • Elie Wiesel - Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Professor and Author
  • Tommy Lasorda - Former Manager of the L.A. Dodgers and Member Baseball Hall of Fame

 

1997-1998

  • Carol Burnett - Actress
  • Marian Wright Edelman - Author, Founder of the Children's Defense Fund
  • Andy Rooney - CBS News correspondent, Author
  • Maya Angelou - Author

 

1996-1997

  • Henry Louis Gates - Author
  • Edward James Olmos - Actor
  • P.J. O'Rourke - Author and Political Satirist
  • Toni Morrison - 1993 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature
 

1995-1996

  • Rita Dove - U.S. Poet Laureate 1993-95
  • David Gergen - Journalist and Political Pundit
  • Gail Sheehy - International Best-Selling Author
  • Howard Stringer - Expert on the Information Superhighway

 

1994-1995

  • The McLaughlin Group - PBS Political Talk Show
  • Garry Wills - Scholar, Classicist and Journalist

 

1993-1994

  • Dick Cheney - Former U.S. Secretary of Defense
  • George F. Will - Political Commentator
  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault - Journalist

 

1992-1993

  • Terry Anderson - Former Chief of AP's Beirut Bureau, Former Hostage
  • Arthur Schlesinger - Historian and Author
  • Ellen Goodman - Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist

 

1991-1992

  • Peter Arnett - CNN Correspondent
  • Vladimir Pozner - Soviet Commentator
  • Tom Wolfe - Author of "The Bonfire of the Vanities"
 

1990-1991

  • Carl Sagan - Scientist and Author of "Cosmos"
  • Patricia Schroeder - United States Congresswoman
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski - Former Presidential National Security Officer
 

1989-1990

  • Tip O'Neill - 47th Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Tom Brokaw - Anchor, Managing Editor and Chief Correspondent, NBC News
  • Jeane Kirkpatrick - Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations
 

1988-1989

  • Gerald Ford - Former President of the United States
  • Lesley Stahl - CBS News National Affairs Correspondent
  • Jimmy Carter - Former President of the United States
 

1987-1988

  • Sam Donaldson - ABC News Chief White House Correspondent
  • John Tower - United States Senator
  • Geraldine Ferraro - First Woman Vice Presidential Candidate on a National Party Ticket

Photo Highlights