Speaker Series: Inform, Engage, Educate

Each year, the Speaker Series hosts world-renowned thinkers who speak on issues, such as economic development, education, health, and arts and culture.  Through these speakers, we hope to inspire the residents of Herkimer County and Oneida County to envision change and be inspired to act. This series is made possible each year through the generous sponsorship of our Corporate Partners.


After four incredibly successful years of speakers, The Foundation’s Corporate Partners-sponsored Speaker Series will continue in early 2016, at The Stanley Center for the Arts, Utica, NY with edutainment wizard and creative conjurer Dr. Don Marinelli, co-founder of the world-renowned Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center and current vice president of Vissman Management, a merger, acquisition and venture capital firm.

Marinelli_funnyMarinelli has been behind various downtown Pittsburgh redevelopment initiatives as well as a consultant on a variety of projects related to bettering communities through the merger of art, technology and education.

Our community is poised to welcome new technology, is burgeoning in economic development and bursting with art opportunities. That’s why we believe Marinelli’s visit to our community provides the perfect opportunity to bring these community assets together. This year’s event will end with an innovative opportunity for our two-county residents with potential to make significant community-changing impact.


  • Co-founder of the world-renowned Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, a joint initiative between the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts, specializing in all manner of digital arts and entertainment
  • Vice president of Vissman Management, a merger, acquisition and venture capital firm in Pittsburgh.
  • Former tenured professor of Drama and Arts Management at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Author of “The Comet and the Tornado,” which recounts Marinelli’s experience of creating the ETC with Randy Pausch, author of the famous “The Last Lecture”
  • Integral in creating the Carnegie Mellon University’s master’s program in arts management, master’s in fine arts in acting with the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia and the master’s of entertainment technology
  • Adjunct professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.


Past speakers have included:

2014 – Dan Heath

Dan Heath-photo

More than 1,200 people ready to switch their thinking filled the SUNY Poly Wildcat Field House Thursday, Oct. 16, for The Foundation’s fourth-annual Speaker Series, featuring Dan Heath.

Heath’s hour-long speech included examples of local “bright spots” who found ways to make change through what seemed impossible barriers.

In the end, it’s motivation, not information, that will make change, Heath said. It’s seeing the bright spots and hope in those bright spots that change is possible.

The Utica-area has those bright spots, he concluded. And now we have the tools.




2013 – Richard Florida

Richard Florida

Urban theorist Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” spoke to nearly 2,000 residents Sept. 12, 2013. His message of empowerment ignited the crowd. He described Herkimer County and Oneida County as having the ingredients for a healthy, thriving community. Three of those ingredients — talent, technology, tolerance — coined the three Ts are staples in the community already, he said. Florida encouraged the community to invest its time, resources and money into its creative workforce and the three Ts for a stronger more vital community.


2012 – Geoffrey Canada

Geffory Canada Speaking in Utica NY

Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and one of Time Magazine’s most influential people of the year, spoke to 1,500 residents on Oct. 17 and encouraged educators to think outside the box and design schools so kids can be successful.

“Every day we are faced with problems. We have to find what works. We are committed every day to not lose any child. We give him or her our best. That’s how we will be successful.”


2011 – Cory Booker

cory booker speaks in Utica NY

Former Newark, N.J. mayor and now senator Cory Booker is known all over the nation for the impact he has made in his city. Who knew that impact could be felt just through a conversation with him in 2011 at the Stanley Theatre. His words on economic development and “declaring war on hopelessness” sparked the perfect beginning for our Speaker Series. Through that discussion, Booker ignited groups and organizations to begin committees and move ideas into action.