Reaching Others University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content

UB Distinguished Speakers Series Announces 2012-13 Schedule

Comedian Steve Martin, political commentator David Brooks and former First Lady Laura Bush to bring their voices to 26th annual lineup

Release Date: August 3, 2012

Related Multimedia

Comedian Steve Martin will be the UB Distinguished Speakers Series Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker on April 27.

Blake Mycoskie

Laura Bush

David Brooks

Walter Mosley

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has announced the schedule for its 26th annual Distinguished Speakers Series, which will run from Sept. 20 through April 27 at 8 p.m. in Alumni Arena and the Center for the Arts on the UB North Campus.

This year's speakers have written bestselling -- and sometimes provocative -- books; been cited for corporate excellence, and received a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, the American Comedy Award, the O. Henry Award, the Library of Congress Living Legend Medal, and have been included in Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential Scientists and Thinkers" and Newsweek's "100 Americans for the Next Century."

Conservative political and cultural commentator David Brooks will open the series on Sept. 20 in the UB Center for the Arts, followed on Oct. 10 by former First Lady Laura Bush in Alumni Arena and by social entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes and the man behind the growing One for One movement, on Nov. 15 in Alumni Arena.

In addition, bestselling novelist and social commentator Walter Mosley will present the keynote address at UB's 37th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Event on Feb. 28 in the Center for the Arts.

The Graduate Student Choice Speaker, world-renowned cognitive scientist and author Steven Pinker, will appear on March 27 in the Center for the Arts.

The 2012-13 series will close on April 27 in Alumni Arena with the Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker, actor, comedian, playwright, producer and musician Steve Martin.

UB President Satish K. Tripathi calls this year's lineup of speakers "truly world-class educators, leading public figures at the vanguard of 21st century arts and culture, science and global policy. We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring their voices to our university and our community through this series."

Dennis Black, UB vice president for university life and services, notes that a key feature of the Distinguished Speakers Series remains "exchange."

"The series not only offers a lecture platform, but an opportunity for audience interaction with speakers through the question-and-answer session that follows each talk," he says.

"This year it will reflect what UB is all about: citizenship, service, diversity, discovery and a little bit of fun," says Black, "and in bringing leading voices in key areas of concern and opportunity to our community for our collective consideration, the series serves its original intentions well."

Speaker Backgrounds

David Brooks (Sept. 20, Center for the Arts) is an op-ed editor at The New York Times, senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a contributing editor at Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly, and currently a commentator on "PBS NewsHour" and "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio.

A sometimes controversial figure, both beloved and criticized by his fellow conservatives and taken to task by progressives as well, Brooks is the author of "Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There" and "On Paradise Drive : How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense," both published by Simon & Schuster.

Laura Bush (Oct. 10, Alumni Arena) is the wife of former president George W. Bush and recognized in her own right as a champion of children's education, human rights and health-care initiatives here and abroad, among them the "Ready to Read, Ready to Learn" initiative and global literacy programs. Her efforts have earned her honors from the United Nations, the Elie Wiesel Foundation, the Kuwait-American Foundation, Vanderbilt University, the American Library Association and many other groups.

Bush has never courted controversy and revealed little of herself to the public during her husband's administration. In spite of that, or because of it, she was a wildly popular figure. Post-administration commentators and readers of her autobiographical book, "Spoken from the Heart," however, have found that the former First Lady definitely has a mind of her own and supports a number of progressive positions, such as those on Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage, Elena Kagan's appointment to the Supreme Court and disagreement with Arizona's immigration law.

While not particularly candid about some issues, Bush has what one reporter called "a keener eye, a readier laugh and a sharper tongue" than many may have assumed.

Blake Mycoskie (Nov. 15, Alumni Arena) is a pioneering social entrepreneur, and the founder and "chief shoe giver" of TOMS , a footwear company that, through its "One for One" program and with the assistance of humanitarian organizations throughout the world, has provided more than 600,000 pairs of new shoes to children in need.

Mycoskie is the recipient of the 2009 U.S. Secretary of State Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE), which celebrates companies' commitment to corporate social responsibility, innovation, exemplary practices and democratic values worldwide.

Walter Mosley (Feb. 28, Center for the Arts) is one of the most powerful and prolific writers working today in any genre. He is the author of more than 35 books, ranging from crime novels to literary fiction, nonfiction, political essays, young adult books and science fiction. In his work, Mosley has explored the black experience in America over the past seven decades, beginning with the migration of African-Americans from the Deep South to his native Los Angeles in the post-World War II era, and on to New York City after President Obama's election. In his work he has created the kind of fully formed, complex black characters that he says have been absent from much contemporary literature.

Mosley is currently writing an HBO series based on his novel "The Long Fall." His 2012 publications so far include "All I Did Was Shoot My Man," "The Gift of Fire" and "On the Head of a Pin" (the latter two books published in one volume).

Steven Pinker (March 27, Center for the Arts) is a Canadian-born experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author who employs verve, wit and popular culture to help non-specialists understand the science behind human thought and action.

Pinker is known within the field of psychology for his theories of how cognition works, the theory of language acquisition, research on the syntax, morphology and meaning of verbs, and his criticism of neural network models of language. He popularized Noam Chomsky's work on language as an innate faculty of mind and defends the idea of a complex human nature that comprises many adaptive mental faculties.

The accessibility of his books is one reason "The Blank Slate" and "How the Mind Works" were bestsellers and finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book, the masterly "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," is widely considered an extraordinary achievement and also is a bestseller. Its insistence that the worst forms of violence have diminished worldwide, however, has ignited controversy and debate among scholars and academics, genetic determinists and some who claim Pinker has a political agenda supported by a naïve notion that violence is purely physical.

Pinker is Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, and taught at Stanford University and, for 21 years, at MIT. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has won a number of teaching prizes and was named among Newsweek's "100 Americans for the Next Century."

Steve Martin (April 27, Alumni Arena) is an actor, comedian, author, playwright, producer and musician who needs no introduction to most American audiences. Martin began his career in the 1960's as a television writer and won an Emmy Award for his work on the hit series "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour."

His outstanding career as a stand-up comedian was launched by frequent appearances on The Tonight Show. Martin was well known in that genre before he went on to host several shows in the Saturday Night Live series and launch a successful career as a producer, actor and screenwriter of feature films.

His movies include "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," "Roxanne," "Housesitter," "Father of the Bride" and the 2011 comedy, "The Big Year," in which he co-starred with Owen Wilson and Jack Black.

Martin also is the author of several successful books, including the bestselling "An Object of Beauty," and "Shopgirl," which became a film starring Martin.

A banjo virtuoso, he has released two full-length music albums: "The Crow/New Songs for the Five-String Banjo," which won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, and "Rare Bird Alert," which features guest vocal appearances by Paul McCartney and The Dixie Chicks.

Other awards include a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 1978 and 1979, the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance, the 2005 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the 2005 Disney Legend Award, the 2007 Kennedy Center Honors and the 2011 International Bluegrass Music Association's Entertainer of the Year Award.

Order forms for 2012-13 Distinguished Speaker Series subscriptions can be downloaded at http://buffalo.edu/dss, and are also available at the UB Alumni Arena Ticket Office in person, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets for individual lectures will go on sale Aug. 16. Tickets for the Bush, Mycoskie and Martin lectures will be available through the UB Alumni Arena Ticket Office and TicketMaster. Tickets for Brooks, Mosley and Pinker can be purchased through the UB Center for the Arts Ticket Office or by visiting http://www.ubcfa.org for online ticket purchase options.

For more information on the speakers, subscription and ticket orders and series sponsors, please visit http://buffalo.edu/dss.

The Distinguished Speakers Series continues to benefit from the vital support of the program's presenting sponsor, the Don Davis Auto World Lectureship Fund, and the UB Undergraduate Student Association (SA), which is the exclusive series sponsor for the 17th consecutive year.

Affiliate series sponsors are WGRZ-TV, Hodgson Russ LLP, the University Bookstore, the UB Graduate Student Association and University Life & Services. Contributing sponsors include United University Professions' Health Sciences Chapter, Buffalo Niagara Marriott Hotel, the UB Division of Athletics, the UB Center for the Arts and the UB Alumni Association.

Among those supporting specific lectures are the UB School of Management Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (Mycoskie), the UB Graduate Student Association (Pinker), the UB Undergraduate Student Association (Martin) and the UB Minority Faculty and Staff Association (Mosley).

Media Contact Information

Patricia Donovan
News Content Manager, Arts and Humanities, Public Health, Social Sciences
Tel: 716-645-4602
pdonovan@buffalo.edu