2019-2020 Season Speakers

We’re proud to bring world-renowned speakers to UB for the 33rd 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.

Since its inception, UB’s Distinguished Speakers Series has been dedicated to showcasing accomplished and influential public figures who represent a diversity of expertise, perspective and lived experience. With our 2019-2020 season, we continue that proud tradition with a truly exceptional lineup.

From proponents of social justice and inclusion to a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, an iconic entrepreneur and one of the planet’s leading advocates for the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems, this season’s distinguished speakers promise to educate, entertain and engage us with compelling discussions about some of the most significant issues of our day. -  UB President Satish K. Tripathi

This Season:

Nyle DiMarco.

Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco | Oct. 23 | Alumni Arena

Deaf Activist and Winner of “America’s Next Top Model” and “Dancing with the Stars”

Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker

More About Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco empowers others to believe they can do and be anything they want in life, no matter the obstacle. He won the mirror ball trophy on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” (season 22) and was the last model standing on The CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” (cycle 22). Born into a multigenerational deaf family, he is an honorary spokesperson for Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) and founder of the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, which works to improve the lives of deaf people around the world. DiMarco co-produced the 2018 return to Broadway of “Children of a Lesser God” starring Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff. DiMarco was also a creative collaborator on The ASL App, created by native deaf signers to teach conversational American Sign Language.

DiMarco has a passion for language, literacy and advocacy within the deaf community and beyond. Believing that his deafness is “an asset rather than a limitation,” he builds a bridge between the deaf and hearing by shining a light on not only the struggles, but also the triumphs of the deaf culture.

Contributing Lecture Sponsor

Wed., Oct. 23, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Arena, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

Nyle DiMarco (Oct. 23)

Nyle DiMarco and/or an American Sign Language Interpreter will be viewable on the large screens and the center video board at all times during the event. There will also be captioning available on the large screens to the left and right of the stage, which is viewable from all seat locations with the exception of the general admission seating in the 300-level.

For information about accessibility/special needs accommodations, please see the Visitor Info page.

Maggie Haberman.

Maggie Haberman

Maggie Haberman | Nov. 14 | Center for the Arts

New York Times White House Correspondent and Pulitzer Prize Winner

More About Maggie Haberman

Maggie Haberman is one of the most influential voices in national affairs journalism today.  As a New York Times White House correspondent and CNN political analyst, she has established herself as one of the country’s most respected journalists and reliable resources for expert commentary on current events and national issues. A seasoned veteran of political reporting, she covered City Hall for the New York Daily News, the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign and other political races for the New York Post, as well as national affairs as a senior reporter for Politico.

In 2018, Haberman and her team at the New York Times received the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for their coverage of the Trump administration and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and the Aldo Beckman Award from the White House Correspondents’ Association.

Thurs., Nov. 14, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Center for the Arts, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

Yusef Salaam.

Yusef Salaam

Yusef Salaam | Feb. 24 | Alumni Arena

Criminal Justice Advocate and Member of the Central Park Five

UB's 44th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Keynote Speaker

Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker

More About Yusef Salaam

On April 19, 1989, a young woman was brutally raped and left for dead in New York City’s Central Park. Five boys—four black and one Latino—were tried and convicted of the crime in a frenzied case that rocked the city. They became known collectively as the Central Park Five.

Their convictions were vacated in 2002 after spending between seven and thirteen years of their lives behind bars. The unidentified DNA in the Central Park jogger case, unlinked to any of the five, had finally met its owner, a convicted murderer and serial rapist who confessed. The convictions of the boys, now men, were overturned and they were exonerated. One of those boys, Yusef Salaam, was just 15 years old when his life was upended and changed forever.

Since his release, Salaam has committed himself to advocating and educating people on the issues of false confessions, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in America’s criminal justice system. In 2013, Ken and Sarah Burns and David McMahon released the documentary “The Central Park Five,” which told of this travesty from the perspective of Salaam and his cohorts.

In 2014, the Central Park Five received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city of New York for its grievous injustice against them. Salaam was awarded an honorary doctorate that same year and received the President's Life Time Achievement Award in 2016 from President Barack Obama.

In 2018, he was appointed to the board of the Innocence Project. In May 2019, Netflix released the limited series titled “When They See Us” based on the true story of Salaam and the other members of the Central Park Five. The series was created and directed by Ava DuVernay; executive producers included Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro.

Mon., Feb. 24, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Arena, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

Daymond John.

Daymond John

Daymond John | Mar. 11 | Center for the Arts

“Shark Tank” Investor, Entrepreneur and FUBU CEO

More About Daymond John

From humble beginnings to one of the most sought-after branding and marketing experts in the country and an investor on ABC's hit show, “Shark Tank,” Daymond John is the consummate 21st century renaissance businessman.

At a young age, he created FUBU, one of the most iconic urban fashion brands in the world. With expertise sought out by global organizations and Fortune 500s, John now consults through his branding company, Shark Branding. He is also the best-selling author of four acclaimed books, the most recent, “Rise and Grind,” released in January 2018. In 2015, President Obama selected him to be a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.

Wed., Mar. 11, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.
Center for the Arts, UB's North (Amherst) Campus

Jeff Corwin.

Jeff Corwin

Jeff Corwin | Apr. 1 | Center for the Arts

Host of “Ocean Mysteries,” Renowned Conservationist and Environmental Journalist

More About Jeff Corwin

As the host of the Emmy Award-winning ABC wildlife adventure series “Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin,” Corwin educated and entertained audiences with his knowledge and deep sense of caring about the natural world. During Corwin’s television career, he also hosted Animal Planet’s “The Jeff Corwin Experience” and “Corwin’s Quest,” along with a variety of popular television series on networks like Disney Channel, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel and Food Network. Corwin’s work on CNN’s critically-acclaimed “Planet in Peril” with Anderson Cooper and as a special science and the environment correspondent for NBC News has solidified his place as one of the world's leading environmental journalists.

Wed., Apr. 1, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.
Center for the Arts, UB's North (Amherst) Campus