Marlee Matlin to give keynote at 2012 SMU Women’s Symposium

Marlee MatlinAward-winning actress, author and activist Marlee Matlin will give the Emmie V. Baine Lecture at SMU’s 47th annual Women’s Symposium Wednesday, March 7, 2012. The event is the longest continuously running program of its kind in the country.

The 2012 theme is “Making the Leap: Women as Agents of Change” – a concept exemplified by the keynote speaker, says Karen Click, director of the SMU Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives. “Marlee Matlin has been an amazing change agent for Deaf advocacy. She is a very talented actor and author who has set her goals high and worked to achieve them,” Click says.

In 1986, at age 21, Matlin became the youngest woman and the only Deaf person to win an Academy Award for best actress when she took home an Oscar for Children of a Lesser God, for which she also won a Golden Globe. Subsequently, she earned two more Golden Globe nominations for the TV series Reasonable Doubts. She has received 5 Emmy Award nominations for her appearances in series including SeinfeldPicket FencesThe West WingThe L Word, Desperate HousewivesThe Practice and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

As runner-up in the 2011 season of The Celebrity Apprentice, Matlin raised in a single episode a record-setting $986,000 for her charity of choice, The Starkey Hearing Foundation. (Series star Donald Trump kicked in $14,000 of his own to make the contribution an even $1 million.) In addition, she competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2008. Her autobiography, I’ll Scream Later, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2009 – the same year in which she received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Matlin has served as an advocate for the Deaf and for persons with disabilities in general, as well as for LGBT issues. She is a tireless proponent for the expansion of closed captioning in all media.

The Symposium will examine all aspects of change, Click says. “How do we start to change? How do we feel about change? How does one person make a change in the world? We will even be looking at the literal and physical changes that women go through,” she says.

The Symposium’s evening program will honor the recipients of the 2012 Profiles in Leadership Awards. This year’s honorees include:

  • Rabbi Nancy Kasten, community advocate
  • Jill Johnson, board chair, Dallas County Historical Foundation
  • Courtney Underwood, sexual assault advocate
  • The Hon. Carolyn Wright, Chief Justice, 5th District Court of Appeals
  • Abby Williams, philanthropist

In addition, the Symposium will honor Cheryl Mayo, executive director of the West Dallas Community Center, with the Gail Reese Ward Excellence in Mentoring Award for “especially significant contributions as a mentor to girls and women.”

Symposium participants range from high school and college students to new career women to seasoned professionals, Click says. Additionally, SMU reserves 20 spaces each year for clients of local violence shelters. “Our hope is that all of these individuals learn that whatever age, status or experience, we can all learn from each other,” Click says.

“I also hope that our SMU students are motivated to see the world around them and look for opportunities to change it for the better. I hope we all realize the power that is held when people find a common goal.”

Early registration is open through Wednesday, Feb. 29. Limited seating may be available at the door, depending on preregistration numbers. Register online at, or download an SMU faculty-staff registration form (PDF format). For more information, contact Karen Click, 214-768-4796.

> Visit the SMU Women’s Symposium homepage