Former "Facts of Life" Star to Give Chautauqua Lecture

Jewell photo

You might remember her from the NBC sitcom “The Facts of Life.”

As the first person with a disability to have a regular role on a prime-time series, Geri Jewell inspired a generation of young people with her groundbreaking character, Cousin Geri.

Now Jewell is coming to Eastern Kentucky University to share her story in a Chautauqua lecture that also serves as the keynote address for a Women’s History Month celebration on the Richmond campus.

Her talk, on Thursday, March 12, is entitled “I’m Walking as Straight as I Can,” referring to both Jewell’s sexuality and her extraordinary struggle growing up with cerebral palsy. The lecture, free and open to the public, begins at 7:30 p.m. in O’Donnell Hall of the Whitlock Building.

Jewell, who began her career as a stand-up comic, has also appeared on such shows as “The Great Space Coaster,” “Two of A Kind,” “Sesame Street,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Young and the Restless,” “Strong Medicine” and the HBO hit series, “Deadwood,” for which she received Emmy consideration. She also co-starred in the independent film “Night of the White Pants” and was featured on the Fox series “Alcatraz.”

When she is not working in television, she is a frequently sought motivational speaker and trainer in the areas of diversity, disability and GLBT issues.  She brings to her presentations her own life experiences, allowing her listeners to see disability in a totally different light, creating hope where there is none, and joy where there is pain.

Jewell has received many awards, including the 1992 Founders Award, the 2005 Independent Living Legacy Award, and the 2006 Victory Award. Her autobiography (same title as her lecture) received the 2012 Gold Award from the Independent Publishers, the 2013 Golden Halo Award and the 2013 UCP Life without Limits Award.

Her visit to EKU is sponsored by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Awareness and Accessibility Committee, the Office of Services for Individuals with Disabilities, the College of Justice and Safety, the College of Education, the Department of American Sign Language and Interpreter Education, the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Campus Recreation, the Cultural Center and the Honors Program.

For more information or a complete schedule of Chautauqua events, visit or contact Chautauqua Lecture Series Coordinator Dr. Erik Liddell at

Published on March 04, 2015

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