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Kean University

Deaf Actress Lauren Ridloff to Give President’s Distinguished Lecture at Kean

Deaf actress Lauren Ridloff

Tony-nominated actress Lauren Ridloff, who is also known for her roles as Marvel’s first Deaf superhero and as a regular in the TV show The Walking Dead, will address the Kean community on Monday, December 11 in the President’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Ridloff, who was Kean’s 2022 Undergraduate Commencement speaker, will give a Distinguished Lecture, The Universal Language of Inclusion, about accessibility and overcoming obstacles. She will communicate in American Sign Language (ASL), using an ASL interpreter, during the lecture in Kean’s Liberty Hall Academic Center in Union. 

Her remarks will also be provided in Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) captions displayed in real-time on a video screen at the venue. The event will also include an ASL interpreter.

“Lauren Ridloff spoke powerfully at Kean’s commencement ceremony, and there is so much more of her story,” said Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. “Her first-hand account about obstacles she overcame in her career and challenges she faced as a Deaf woman of color will speak to Kean’s message of inclusion and accessibility and provide a new perspective to spark discourse in our University community.”

Ridloff will also hold a master class for students in the Kean Theatre Conservatory, with a Q&A session about her career and the business of acting. 

In her commencement address, Ridloff also communicated in ASL with an interpreter. She urged Kean graduates to embrace diversity and inclusion as they move into the next chapter of their lives.

“What I see right now at Kean University is diversity. I see inclusion. I see freedom,” she said.

Ridloff’s lecture comes on the heels of a lively President’s Distinguished Lecture event featuring cast members from the 1980s and -90s TV show A Different World, which was set in a fictitious historically Black college. 

The President’s Distinguished Lecture Series was created to bring thought leaders and newsmakers to the Kean campus. Previous Distinguished Lecturers include National Book Award winner James McBride; internationally-known physicist Michio Kaku, Ph.D.; civil rights activist Martin Luther King III; CNN anchors Abby Phillip and Dana Bash; and others.

Ridloff is a former kindergarten teacher who began her acting career after she was originally hired as a tutor in American Sign Language for the 2018 revival of the Broadway play, Children of a Lesser God. She was ultimately cast in the lead role, in which she won wide acclaim and a Tony nomination.

Following that, she became a series regular, playing Connie, on The Walking Dead and was cast as Makkari in Marvel’s Eternals, opposite Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjani. Ridloff, who is also a former Miss Deaf America, received a 2020 BAFTA Breakthrough Award, recognizing the most promising stars of film and television.

The Distinguished Lecture will take place on Monday, December 11, at 5 p.m. at Kean’s Liberty Hall Academic Center, 1003 Morris Avenue, Union, New Jersey. 

Tickets for the general public are $20 each and can be purchased online. Tickets for Kean employees and students are free but limited to one ticket per person, and registration is required.

For more information, visit the President’s Distinguished Lecture Series webpage.