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Former Defense Secretary Gates to open event

A former defense secretary, an award-winning CNN journalist and the creator of two hit TV series featuring a rude baby and a talking dog are among the varied speakers who have been booked for the University at Buffalo's 25th annual Distinguished Speakers Series.

Robert M. Gates, defense secretary under both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush and CIA director under President George H.W. Bush, will open the series Sept. 21.

Other speakers for the series include: CNN's Soledad O'Brien; Mary Robinson, Ireland's former president and international human rights commissioner; and Seth McFarlane, voice actor, singer and creator of the hit animated television series "American Dad" and "Family Guy," featuring the rude, precocious baby, Stewie, and his talking dog sidekick, Brian.

This season's Distinguished Speakers Series will also feature actor, author and medical research advocate Michael J. Fox and Judy Shepard, an activist, author and mother of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a notorious 1998 gay hate crime near Laramie, Wyo.

"This year's series will again provoke a better understanding of our world by focusing on serious international social and political issues, with a little humor to leaven the offerings," said Dennis Black, UB vice president for university life and services.

"It will take us to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland and the European Community, and ask us to consider human rights in the broadest sense of the term," Black added.

Series subscriptions are on sale now; individual lecture tickets will be available for sale later this month.

Speakers will begin at 8 p.m. in Alumni Arena on the UB North Campus except for O'Brien, who will appear in Kleinhans Music Hall, and Robinson, who will be in the UB Center for the Arts on the North Campus.

Gates' appearance will coincide with the inaugural week celebration for newly installed UB President Satish K. Tripathi. A former university president himself, Gates also spent 27 years as an intelligence professional and held several major posts, including CIA director from 1991 to 1993 and deputy director of the agency from 1986 to 1989.

Fox, who first gained notice on the 1980s sitcom "Family Ties," is scheduled to speak Oct. 19. He went on to star in the successful "Back to the Future" film trilogy, before returning to series television in 1996.

Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease in 1991, prompting him to shift his focus and energy to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, through which he has advocated for stem-cell research and raised both public awareness of the disease and more than $251 million in research funding.