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Actor Jesse L. Martin to Serve as Buffalo State Commencement Speaker

Actor Jesse L. Martin to Serve as Buffalo State Commencement Speaker

Posted: April 24, 2019

Buffalo State College President Katherine Conway-Turner announced today that actor and former Buffalonian Jesse L. Martin will speak at the college's 147th commencement on Saturday, May 18.

Martin will address graduates at both baccalaureate ceremonies (9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.) and the graduate ceremony (5:00 p.m.). He will be presented with a SUNY honorary doctor of fine arts degree during the 9:00 a.m. ceremony.

Martin is best known for originating the role of Tom Collins in the Broadway musical RENT, his television role as Detective Ed Green on Law & Order, and most recently for his work as Detective Joe West on the CW comic-hero series The Flash.

Born in Rocky Mount, Virginia, Martin's family relocated to the Queen City while he was in grade school. Before attending and graduating from the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Martin attended elementary school on Buffalo State's campus at the Campus School/College Learning Laboratory.

"Buffalo State is thrilled to honor and welcome Jesse L. Martin as our 2019 commencement speaker," Conway-Turner said. "Mr. Martin, through his illustrious career as an actor, singer, and director, along with his history with our great campus and wonderful city, will offer a unique, relevant, and inspiring message to our graduates."   

Martin, in accepting the role of commencement speaker, said in a message to President Conway-Turner, "I formally and humbly accept the honor of giving the 2019 commencement speech at Buffalo State College. I also, very proudly, accept the honorary doctorate that your amazing institution has offered to bestow upon me. It is not lost on me the degree of importance this honor carries. As a child of the Buffalo Public School system, who attended elementary school on your beautiful campus, this is a dream come true."

About Jesse L. Martin
Jesse Lamont Martin was born the third of five sons on January 18, 1969, in Rocky Mount, Virginia. Martin was often shy and did not like speaking in school because of his thick Southern accent. His fourth-grade teacher suggested he join the school play and cast him as the pastor in The Golden Goose. Thereafter, he attended high school at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, where he was voted "Most Talented" in his senior class. He later enrolled in New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts theater program and attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.

He toured the United States with John Houseman's The Acting Company, which was his first paid job as an actor. He appeared in Rock-in-Roles at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and later in The Butcher’s Daughter at the Cleveland Playhouse. He also had minor roles on One Life to Live and Guiding Light. He worked at the Moondance Diner in New York City, where he met RENT composer Jonathan Larson.

In 1993, he made his Broadway debut in Timon of Athens (as Alcibiades’s Officer and Second Masseur), and in 1994, he performed in The Government Inspector (as Abdulin). That same year, he appeared in the Off-Broadway production of The Arabian Nights as Prince of Fools, Clarinetist, and Boy. His breakout role would come in 1996 as Tom Collins in the original Broadway production of RENT. He would later recreate the role in 1998 during the West End production, alongside fellow cast members Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Anthony Rapp, and Adam Pascal, and in the 2005 film version.

After RENT, he appeared in several episodes of Ally McBeal and landed a main role, as Detective Ed Green, on NBC's long-running crime drama Law & Order in 1999. He left Law & Order in 2008 to pursue other projects. In 2009, he guest starred in NBC's The Philanthropist as Philip Maidstone.

Martin then went on to star in repertory performances of The Merchant of Venice (as Gratiano) and the Winter's Tale (as King Polixenes) during the 2010 season of the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. He returned to Broadway later that year when The Merchant of Venice transferred to the Broadhurst Theater. The show received seven Tony nominations, including "Best Revival of a Play."

In 2012, Martin appeared on NBC's SMASH for nine episodes as Scott Welker, the artistic director of a Manhattan theater company.

Martin currently portrays Joe West in the superhero series The Flash, a spin-off from Arrow, which premiered in October 2014.

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