Marlee Matlin, the first deaf performer to ever win an Oscar for Best Actress in Leading Role, will speak at Cornell on Feb. 8 — the first event in Cornell Hillel’s Major Speaker Series this semester, according to committee chair Jessi Silverman ’17.
At 21, Matlin is also the youngest Oscar winner in this category to date. She is best known for her award-winning performance in the movie Children of a Lesser God, but she has also appeared in shows including The West Wing, The L Word, Switched at Birth and a Broadway performance of “Spring Awakening,” according to her website.
Her work on both the big and small screen earned her a Golden Globe award and four Emmy nominations.
Deaf since childhood, Matlin is also a proud member of the National Association of the Deaf and speaks regularly as an advocate for the deaf community, often sharing her struggle with overcoming addiction.
“I hope the audience will be inspired by how admirably Ms. Matlin has overcome major obstacles on her path to success — not only her deafness but her somewhat tumultuous adolescence and history of drug abuse,” Silverman said.
Silverman added that she believes attendees will find the way that Matlin has used her fame to raise awareness about disabilities and promote worthy causes very powerful.
At the event, Matlin’s words will be interpreted by Jack Jason — her long-time interpreter — as she signals in ASL, according to Silverman.
Aaron Mallenbaum, who chaired the Speaker Series last semester at the time they booked Matlin’s visit and is now the President of Hillel, said the Speaker Series Committee of seven members meets regularly to vote on which speakers the series will feature.
“We were extremely excited when Ms. Matlin accepted our invitation, and are very grateful to the Himan Brown Charitable Trust for sponsoring this event,” he said.
Over 130 Cornellians have already indicated on Facebook that they plan to attend the event.
The event will take place in 155 Olin Hall and is free and open to the public, with special accommodations available to students with disabilities.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Marlee Matlin as the first deaf Oscar winner. She is in fact the first deaf Oscar winner in her category, Best Actress in Leading Role.