2017-2018 Season Speakers

We’re proud to bring world-renowned speakers to UB for the 31st annual Distinguished Speakers Series. As we open our doors to the community, we hope you’ll join us for thought-provoking discussions, inspirational stories and life-changing events you won’t find anywhere else.

We are so pleased to launch the 2017-2018 Distinguished Speakers Series with a lineup of trailblazing public figures whose considerable expertise, outspoken eloquence and profound convictions are shaping the discourse on some of the defining issues of our day. For the past 30 years, influential voices from across the country and around the world have shared their thought-provoking perspectives with our community, generating lively discussions that continued long after they left campus. This year’s remarkable group of speakers – including a leading environmentalist, a beloved television icon and the youngest-ever Nobel laureate – promise to do the same, and we look forward to welcoming each of them to UB. -  UB President Satish K. Tripathi

This Season:

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai | Sept. 19, 2017

Girls Education Activist & Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Graduate Student Choice Speaker

More About Malala Yousafzai

A champion since the age of 10 for the right of girls to receive an education, Malala Yousafzai made headlines when she was shot by the Taliban in 2012 at the age of 15 while traveling home from school on the bus with her friends in Pakistan.

Now living with her family in Birmingham, England, she is internationally known for her courage in refusing to be silenced and continues to campaign for the right of every child to go to school. 

Yousafzai is the co-recipient, with Kailash Satyarthi, of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Aged 17 at the time, she was the youngest-ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. 

In April 2017, Yousafzai received honorary Canadian citizenship.  The sixth and youngest person to receive the honor, she also became the youngest person to address the House of Commons of Canada.  This year she also became the youngest United Nations Messenger of Peace.  Yousafzai was named to TIME Magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2013, 2014 and 2015.  In 2012, she was the recipient of Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize and in 2013, she received the Sakharov Prize and was honored with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award. 

She is the author of “I Am Malala” (2013), an international bestseller that has been translated into 40 languages.

Following the outpouring of support that Yousafzai received after the Taliban’s attempt on her life in 2012, she set up an international fund – the Malala Fund – dedicated to promoting education for girls throughout the world.

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Lecture Sponsors

Tues., Sept. 19, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Arena, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

Theresa Payton

Theresa Payton

Theresa Payton | Oct. 18, 2017

Former White House CIO and Cyber Security CEO

More About Theresa Payton

Theresa Payton is one of the nation’s leading experts in cybersecurity and IT strategy. As CEO of Fortalice Solutions, an industry-leading security consulting company, and co-founder of Dark Cubed, a cybersecurity product company, Payton is a proven leader and influencer who works with clients and colleagues to uncover strategic opportunities and identify new and emerging threats.

Payton began her career in financial services, where she coupled her deep understanding of technology systems with visionary leadership, executing complex IT strategies and winning new business. Following executive roles at Bank of America and Wachovia, Payton served as the first female chief information officer at the White House, overseeing IT operations for President George W. Bush and his staff.

In 2015, Payton was named a William J. Clinton distinguished lecturer by the Clinton School of Public Service. She is the author of several publications on IT strategy and cybersecurity and a frequent speaker on IT risk. In 2014 she co-authored, with Ted Claypoole, the book “Privacy in the Age of Big Data​: Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family,” which was subsequently featured on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Among her numerous accolades and recognitions, Payton was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in Security by Security Magazine and One of Infosec’s Rising Stars and Hidden Gems by Tripwire. As Head of Intelligence on the CBS TV series, “Hunted,” Payton and her elite team of command center investigators expose the perils and opportunities of our digital world.

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Lecture Sponsors

UB School of Management

Wed., Oct. 18, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Arena, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams | Nov. 18, 2017

Actor and Activist

Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker

More About Jesse Williams

A native of Chicago and graduate of Temple University, Jesse Williams began his professional career teaching high school in low income Philadelphia public charter schools. From there he moved to New York City and, after working at a law firm, began his professional acting career, performing off-Broadway at The Cherry Lane Theatre under the direction of award-winning playwright Edward Albee in “The Sandbox.”

Williams is ‘Dr. Jackson Avery’ in ABC’s hit series “Grey’s Anatomy.”  He served as senior producer and correspondent for the EPIX docuseries “America Divided” with Norman Lear. He also executive produced the documentary “Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement,” which premiered summer 2016. His feature credits also include Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” “The Cabin in the Woods,” “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” “They Die By Dawn,” and 2017 releases, “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Band Aid.”

Williams is founder of the production company, farWord Inc. and the executive producer of “Question Bridge: Black Males,” a series of transmedia art installations, films, curriculum and website (QuestionBridge.com). The exhibition was an official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival New Frontiers and continues to be exhibited in museums nationwide.

Off screen, Williams co-hosts the sports and culture-themed podcast “Open Run,” through a partnership with LeBron James’ digital network, Uninterrupted. He is co-owner of Scholly, a mobile app that connects students to scholarships for which they’re eligible. Additionally, Williams and partners launched Ebroji, the first curated GIF keyboard designed specifically to enhance the way we already communicate.

Williams gained international attention for his acceptance speech when presented with the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award as a champion of civil rights. He also sits on the Board of Directors of Advancement Project, a leading national civil rights advocacy organization and Harry Belafonte’s arts and social justice organization Sankofa.org.

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Lecture Sponsor

Sat., Nov. 18, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Arena, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

Susan Rice

Susan Rice

Susan Rice | Feb. 28, 2018

Former U.S. National Security Advisor (2013-17)

UB's 42nd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Keynote Speaker

More About Susan Rice

Ambassador Susan E. Rice served President Barack Obama as National Security Advisor from July 1, 2013 to January 20, 2017. In that role, she led the National Security Council Staff, chaired the Cabinet level National Security Principals Committee, provided the President’s daily National Security briefing, and was responsible for the coordination and integration of all aspects of the administration’s foreign and National Security policy, intelligence and military efforts.

From January 2009 until assuming the role of National Security Advisor in July 2013, Rice served as U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. At the UN, she worked to advance U.S. interests, defend universal values, strengthen the world’s common security and prosperity, and promote respect for human rights. Under Rice’s leadership, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations helped win the stiffest UN sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea, unprecedented action to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, support for life-saving interventions in Libya and Cote d’Ivoire, cooperation on the referendum for independence in Southern Sudan, vital UN assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, stalwart support for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and progress on reform of the flawed UN Human Rights Council.

Prior to serving as U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Rice served as Senior Advisor for National Security Affairs on the Obama for America Campaign and later on the Advisory Board of the Obama-Biden Transition and as co-chair of its policy working group on National Security. From 2002-09, she was a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, where she focused on U.S. foreign policy, transnational security threats, weak states, global poverty and development.

From 1997 to 2001, Rice was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. In this position, she formulated and implemented U.S. policy for 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and oversaw the management of 43 U.S. Embassies and more than 5,000 U.S. and Foreign Service national employees. In 2000, Rice was co-recipient of the White House’s 2000 Samuel Nelson Drew Memorial Award for distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between states. From 1995-97, Ambassador Rice served as Special Assistant to President William J. Clinton and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House. From 1993-95, she served as the Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping on the National Security Council staff. Previously, Ambassador Rice was a management consultant with McKinsey and Company in Toronto, Canada, and served on numerous boards, including the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), National Democratic Institute and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Rice received her master’s and doctoral degrees in International Relations from New College, Oxford University, England, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She was awarded the Chatham House-British International Studies Association Prize for the most distinguished doctoral dissertation in the United Kingdom in the field of International Relations. Ambassador Rice received her BA in History with honors from Stanford University, where she was named junior Phi Beta Kappa and was a Truman Scholar.

In 2017, French President Francois Hollande presented Rice with the award of Commander, the Legion of Honor of France, for her contributions to Franco-American relations.

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Program Sponsor

Contributing Program Sponsor(s)

Wed., Feb. 28, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Arena, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

James Balog

James Balog

James Balog | Apr. 12, 2018

Global Expert on Climate Change and Founder of the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS)

More About James Balog

For decades, photographer James Balog has broken new conceptual and artistic ground on one of the most important issues of our era: human modification of our planet’s natural systems. An avid mountaineer with a graduate degree in geography and geomorphology, Balog is equally at home on a Himalayan peak or a whitewater river, the African savannah or polar icecaps. Balog has become a global spokesman on the subject of climate change and human impact on the environment. In 2007, he founded the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the most wide-ranging, ground-based, photographic study of glaciers ever conducted; it integrates art and science giving a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems. As a consequence of this historic work, in 2009, he served as a U.S./NASA representative at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 15) in Copenhagen. In 2015, at COP 21 in Paris, he made numerous presentations on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The United Nations Foundation and Solutions COP 21 at the Grand Palais.

Balog and the EIS team were featured in the 2012 internationally acclaimed, award–winning documentary “Chasing Ice” and in the 2009 PBS "NOVA" special “Extreme Ice.” “Chasing Ice” won an Emmy Award in 2014 and was short-listed for an Oscar. It has been screened at the White House, in the U.S. Congress, in the U.K. House of Commons and at the United Nations. It has been the subject of features on “NBC Nightly News,” “ABC Nightline,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” PBS’s “Moyers & Company,” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” National Geographic showcased the Extreme Ice Survey in 2007, 2010 and 2013.

Balog has given multimedia presentations about the project at TED and at dozens of major institutions including the White House, the U.S. Congress, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Apple, Swarovski, the 2010 Winter Olympics, North Face, Qualcomm, the Bloomberg New Energy Financial Summit, Cornell University and Duke University. Balog was a keynote speaker at an environmental philosophy conference in Istanbul sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the 300 million-member Orthodox Church.

Balog has been honored with many awards. In recent years these include the Royal Photographic Society Hood Medal, the Heinz Award, the Duke University LEAF Award, the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism at Dickinson College, an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of Alberta, the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) League Award and the American Geophysical Union Presidential Citation for Science and Society.

The most recent of Balog's eight books is “ICE: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers,” published by Rizzoli in 2012. Among his other titles are “Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest” (2004) and “Survivors: A New Vision of Endangered Wildlife” (1990), hailed as a major conceptual breakthrough in environmental photography. His work is in dozens of public and private art collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Corcoran Gallery, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Gilman Paper Company.

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Lecture Sponsor

Thurs., Apr. 12, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Arena, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

Alan Alda

Alan Alda

Alan Alda | May 2, 2018

TV Icon and Science Communicator

More About Alan Alda

Actor, writer, science advocate and director are just a few of Alan Alda’s many job titles. Throughout his 40-year career, he has won seven Emmys, six Golden Globes, and three DGA awards for directing. When not garnering accolades for his roles in front of and behind the camera, Alda spent 11 years hosting “Scientific American Frontiers” on PBS.

One of TV Guide’s 50 Greatest Television Stars of All Time, Alda is best known for portraying Hawkeye Pierce on “M*A*S*H,” which earned him five Emmys for acting, writing and directing, the only actor in history to win in each category for a single series. 125 million people tuned in to say goodbye, making the show’s finale the most watched single TV episode in U.S. history.

He wrote, directed, and starred in several films throughout the 80s and 90s. He was nominated for a British Academy Award for “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and received an Oscar nomination for his performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator.” In 2016, he starred alongside Louis C.K. and Steve Buscemi in the series “Horace and Pete.”

From 1993 to 2005, Alda hosted PBS' “Scientific American Frontiers,” putting the actor up close with cutting edge advancements in chemistry, technology, biology and physics. In 2013, he hosted “Brains on Trial,” a neurological look at brains in the courtroom. He also wrote “Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie,” a play about the personal life of the scientist who discovered radium, and presented “Dear Albert,” a stage-work he wrote based on letters written by Albert Einstein, for the World Science Festival in 2016.

A recipient of the National Science Board’s Public Service Award, Alda is a visiting professor at and founding member of Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, where he helps develop innovative programs for scientists to improve their communication with the public. His new company, Alda Communication Training (ACT), based on The Alda Method™, teaches effective face-to-face and written communication. He sits on the board of A.I. research body The Future of Life Institute, alongside Stephen Hawking, Morgan Freeman and Elon Musk, and is on the Board of Directors of the World Science Festival.

Alda published his New York Times bestselling memoir, “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed—And Other Things I've Learned,” in 2005. His second bestseller, “Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself,” came out in 2007. Alda’s latest book, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating,”  was released in June 2017.

His 34 Emmy nominations include performances for NBC’s “The Blacklist,” “30 Rock,” “The West Wing” and “ER.”

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Lecture Sponsors

UB Science Communication Initiative

Wed., May 2, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Arena, UB's North (Amherst) Campus