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Hill Harper

Hill Harper

MSC Ballroom

(Lecture occurred on January 22, 2014). Hill Harper Acclaimed Actor and Positive Role Model“I want young women and men to have knowledge of the things that can bring them true empowerment: education, a strong sense of purpose, compassion, confidence and humility...”Humanitarian, actor, author, health and wellness ambassador/educator and philanthropist, Hill Harper is most recognizable for his starring role in the hit television drama “CSI: NY,” where he played eccentric Dr. Sheldon Hawkes from 2004 until early 2013. During that time Harper won three NAACP Image Awards for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Dr. Hawkes. He currently stars on USA Network’s Covert Affairs as CIA station chief Calder Michaels. Prior to CSI: NY, Harper co-starred as an ambitious undercover FBI operative on the CBS series The Handler, which earned him a 2004 Golden Satellite Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.In addition to his performing career, Harper has authored four New York Times bestsellers: Letters to a Young Brother, Letters to a Young Sister, The Conversation and The Wealth Cure, which chronicled his diagnosis with thyroid cancer and his journey to health. Letters to a Young Brother won several awards and was named “Best Book for Young Adults” by the American Library Association in 2007. To date, his collective writing and acting work has been recognized with seven NAACP Image Awards. Harper is currently working on his latest book, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother, which will be released in November.Harper was born in Iowa City, IA, the son of two doctors – his father a psychiatrist and his mother an anesthesiologist. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and graduated with a J.D. (cum laude) from Harvard Law School, as well as with a Masters in Public Administration, with honors, from the Kennedy School of Government. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from Howard University, Winston-Salem State University, Cheyney University, Westfield State College, Dillard University and Tougaloo College. During his years at Harvard, Harper was a full-time member of Boston's Black Folks Theater Company, one of the oldest and most acclaimed African-American theater troupes in the country.Harper made his television debut in 1993 with a recurring role on the Fox series Married...with Children. In 1996, Spike Lee hired Harper for his major film debut, playing a UCLA film student filming a bus trip to the Million Man March in Washington, D.C in Spike Lee’s Get on the Bus. He continued to demonstrate his versatility in the 1990s with such films as Spike Lee's He Got Game and Hav Plenty. Additional film credits include Oprah Winfrey's Beloved, Loving Jezebel, The Skulls, The Visit, The Nephew, In Too Deep, Zooman, and Showtime's One Red Rose, which he also co-wrote.Additionally, Harper has appeared in many award winning television projects. Most notably, he starred in HBO’s Emmy and Golden Globe winning The Lackawanna Blues. He has guest starred on HBO’s The Sopranos and had a recurring role on Showtime’s Soul Food as a survivor who was living with HIV/AIDS. He also starred in the CBS mini-series Mama Flora's Family with Cicely Tyson. Additional guest starring appearances include: ER, NYPD Blue, Murder One and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He has also produced several television documentaries and written two short films. He made his directorial debut with the short film, The Truth, a 2012 Pan African Film Festival Award Winner.In an effort to stop the high school drop-out rate of underserved youth, Harper created the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, dedicated to empowering, encouraging and inspiring youth to succeed through mentorship, scholarship and grant programs. In August 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Hill Harper as a Member, President’s Cancer Panel; a key Administration post seeking to combat cancer and its devastating effects.
Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks

MSC Ballroom

In 1994, rejected from both publishers and law schools, Nicholas Sparks was a job-jumping salesman who wrote in the evenings. In early 1995, and against all odds, his manuscript was discovered in the slush pile. By October, Warner Books famously paid a million dollars for an unknown story about a notebook. The rest, as they say, is history. Now with almost 80 million copies of his books in print, literary sensation Nicholas Sparks is the author of 17 New York Times #1 bestselling books and a cultural phenomenon in his own right. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Sparks graduated valedictorian of his California high school in 1984, and received a full track scholarship to the University Of Notre Dame. After breaking the Notre Dame school record as part of a relay team in 1985 as a freshman, he was injured and spent the summer recovering. During that summer, he wrote his first novel, though it was never published. He majored in Business Finance and graduated with high honors in 1988. Sparks wrote his second novel in 1989, though again, it wasn’t published. He worked a variety of jobs over the next three years, including real estate appraisal, waiting tables, selling dental products by phone, and started his own small manufacturing business which struggled from the beginning. In l994, at the age of 28, he wrote The Notebook over a period of six months. In October 1995, rights to The Notebook were sold to Warner Books. It was published in October 1996, and he followed that with 16 novels, including Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), Dear John (2006), The Last Song (2009), and The Best of Me (2011) to name a few, all with Warner Books/Grand Central Publishing. All of his books were domestic and international best sellers, with almost 80 million copies sold worldwide, translated into more than 45 languages. His most current book, The Longest Ride, was released in September of 2013. Coupled with the undeniable success of his many books, the movie adaptations of Sparks’ books have become the most iconic romantic feature films for a whole new generation. Beginning with Message in a Bottle in 1999, Sparks’ novels continued to grace the silver screen with adaptations of A Walk to Remember (2002), The Notebook (2004), and Nights in Rodanthe, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane (2008). Dear John, starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, and The Last Song, starring Miley Cyrus and Greg Kinnear, were released in 2010 to great success. Sparks continued to dominate the box office with the release of The Lucky One starring Zac Efron in April 2012. His latest blockbuster smash hit, Safe Haven starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel was released on February 14th, 2013. At the podium, Sparks takes audiences deeper into the sleepy towns and poignant relationships that ignite the pages of his romantic pageturners. Drawing large and appreciative crowds of fans, Sparks in person displays the traits that make his books so beloved: great storytelling, a unique voice, and a charm that connects through the power of words. His relatable talks weave his own personal story of hard work, rejection, anxiety, and triumph for inspiring authors — and romantics —everywhere. Sparks contributes to a variety of local and national charities, and is a major contributor to the Creative Writing Program (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame. Along with his wife, he founded The Epiphany School in New Bern, North Carolina, and he spent five years coaching track and field athletes at the local public high school. Nicholas lives in North Carolina with his wife of over 20 years and family. “Nicholas Sparks knows how to tug at a reader’s heartstrings.”