Special Events

University Life & Services | Leading the Experience

University Life & Services


About Distinguished Speakers Series

Jimmy Carter Tom Brokow

The Dalai Lama, Sidney Poitier, Al Gore, Elie Wiesel, Tim Russert, John Stewart, Bill Nye, Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou, George Bush, Toni Morrison... an apparently disparate grouping of familiar names that have at least one thing in common - they have all appeared at UB as part of the DSS. Since 1987, we have been bringing speakers of national and international renown to campus several times a year to share insight, provoke thought and stimulate conversation about some of our time's most compelling issues, stories and events.

UB began the DSS as a way to attract alumni, friends and community neighbors to our relatively new North campus. By offering entertaining educational opportunities that are unique and unavailable elsewhere, UB has succeeded in attracting scores of alumni and friends to campus, as well as enhancing the quality of student life. The first series featured a number of highly regarded experts in the fields of politics and the presidency. The lecture programs have since expanded to include internationally renowned scientists, authors, media experts and other luminaries.

The DSS has become a well established and highly regarded highlight of the university calendar, and an integral part of community life. The Undergraduate Student Association, the Graduate Student Association and the Division of Student Affairs work closely with the Special Events to identify and help fund speakers who have particular appeal for students. The DSS also addresses an important role of the university's mission - public service in the community - by dedicating at least one speaker per year to address societal issues and concerns.

Series Support/Funding

All speaker honoraria and production expenses for the series are covered by the following: ticket sales; support provided voluntarily by student governments using their student activity fees to purchase large blocks of tickets for each of the lectures for free distribution to students; sponsorships directed to the series by our university and community partners; and the Donald L. Davis Lectureship Fund, an endowment created exclusively to support the series. No state funds, research foundation funds, tuition dollars, or general gifts to the university or UB Foundation are used to support the program.

Previous Speakers

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



  • Hillary Rodham Clinton - Former Secretary of State and Former U.S. Senator from New York
  • Michio Kaku - Theoretical Physicist and Bestselling Author
  • Malcolm Gladwell - Bestselling 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


  • 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, Healthcare 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


  • Robert Gates - US 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 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Lance Armstrong Seven-Time Tour de France Winner; Founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation


  • 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



  • 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


  • 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


  • 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 US 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!)


  • 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 US Vice President, Author and Activist


  • Alex Kotlowitz - Critically Acclaimed Author
  • Colin Powell - Former US Secretary of State
  • Brian Greene - Physicist and Ground-Breaking 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 Healthcare, Disease- Prevention & Bioterrorism
  • Conan O'Brien - Comedian and Host of Late Night With Conan O'Brien


  • 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 US Attorney General
  • Ann Coulter - Author, Columnist & Political Commentator
  • * Dr. Michael Eric Dyson - Scholar/Best-Selling Author
  • Salman Rushdie - Internationally Acclaimed Novelist & Public Intellectual


  • 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


  • 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 US Senator


  • 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


  • 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



  • 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


  • 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



  • 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


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


  • 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
Special Events | 352 Fargo Quad, Bldg. 4 | University at Buffalo | Buffalo, NY 14261-0050 | Tel: (716) 645-6147 | Fax: (716) 645-2801 | Director: William J. Regan | E-Mail: Conference Services (Management and Registration) | Distinguished Speakers Series | Special Events