Academy Award-winning actor Marlee Matlin was the guest speaker at Converse University’s Zimmerli Performance Center in Twichell Auditorium. The event, for Women’s History Month, was hosted by Spartanburg-based nonprofit Determined to Soar on March 1, 2023.
Matlin has performed in more than 30 films and TV shows and is the author of four books. She was the youngest woman to win a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in the film, “Children of a Lesser God.” Her most recent film, “CODA”, has a predominantly deaf cast in leading roles and won Best Picture at the 2022 Academy Awards.
The event, “Nobody’s Perfect: Achieving Inclusion, Diversity & Access,” explored Matlin’s perspectives on achieving inclusion, diversity, equity and access during her Hollywood journey. The event also included performances by local artists.
While in Spartanburg, Matlin made a private visit to the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind. Converse University’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program holds a longstanding professional development partnership with the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, as well as the Spartanburg County Hearing Impaired Program. This collaboration provides our students opportunities to share joint responsibility for pre-service teacher preparation and offers professional experience.
Converse’s Associate Professor of Education & Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, Dr. Margaret Park, had the opportunity to meet with Ms. Matlin, as did some of her students.
“What struck me was her willingness to focus on each and every person who interacted with her.”Dr. Margaret Park
“What struck me was her willingness to focus on each and every person who interacted with her,” Dr. Park said. “She was truly interested in everyone and what they wanted to say to her.”
Matlin’s reputation for being down-to-earth and friendly was echoed by others who met and interacted with her.
ASL 1 student Ashley Mazyck-Barnfeld ’24 had the opportunity to meet and sign with Matlin. Ashley said that meeting Matlin was a wonderful, inspiring experience.
“I was really nervous because I was just starting to learn ASL,” Ashley said. “I was worried that I would sign the wrong thing. When it came time for me to interact with her, she was very kind and encouraged me to sign what I could.”
Even when Ashley became slightly flustered while signing, Matlin was easy-going and encouraged her to keep signing. “I was happy she did that because it gave me more confidence to keep the conversation going,” Ashley said. “This will definitely be a moment in my life where I will look back and use it as a form of encouragement or motivation.”
The event was sponsored by Determined to Soar, a Spartanburg-based nonprofit that strives to educate, inspire and unify future generations of leaders through its series of interactive and engaging events.