The 2019 NIRSA Annual Conference Committee is excited to announce that Timothy Shriver, Ph.D. will be the 2019 NIRSA Annual Conference & Campus Rec and Wellness Expo opening keynote speaker and Ash Beckham will be the closing keynote speaker!

Timothy Shriver, PhD.

Tim Shriver is the Chairman of Special Olympics International, and in that role he serves with over 5.6 million Special Olympics athletes and their families in 172 countries.

Tim has been a part of an amazing team that has created exciting new Special Olympics programs in athlete leadership, cross-cultural research, health, education, and family support. Among them, Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® has become the world’s largest public health examination and education program for people with intellectual disabilities, and Special Olympics Unified Schools has become a powerful program promoting school-based social inclusion and unified leadership. In addition, he has worked to garner more government support for issues of concern to the Special Olympics community, testifying before the United States Congress and challenging government leaders worldwide to respect the dignity and possibilities of people with intellectual disabilities.

In the last few years, NIRSA and Special Olympics have partnered to expand Unified Sports Programs and opportunities at participating NIRSA members colleges and universities. Tim delivered a brief message during the opening session at NIRSA 2018 and it was very evident in member feedback that members wanted to hear more from him! “Tim Shriver has been at the top of our list of desired guest speakers for a couple years now because of what he brings to the table and his organization’s direct alignment with NIRSA’s mission and values,” says Ashley Lax, Assistant Director of Competitive Sports at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, 2019 NIRSA Annual Conference Program Committee member, and member of the keynote speaker subcommittee team.

“Not only has NIRSA increased partnerships and opportunities with Special Olympics over the years,” Ashley adds, “but both organizations have a similar goal of developing young people through opportunities.”

Tim will deliver the keynote address during the Opening General Session of NIRSA 2019, which will take place on Saturday, February 16 from 3:30pm–5:00pm. “Tim’s commitment to health and wellbeing through the joy of sport make him the ideal speaker to begin our conference,” says Walter Kolis, Associate Director, Recreation Operations at Emory University and 2019 NIRSA Annual Conference Program Committee Chair. “Tim speaks to how our membership can utilize the power of sport to teach values of inclusion, leadership, and global perspectives through experiential opportunities on our campuses,” he adds.

Ash Beckham

Ash Beckham, a bold, dynamic presenter who speaks about empathy, respect, and the power of having real conversations will help us close NIRSA 2019. Ash never intended on being a public speaker. She graduated from The Ohio State University in 1996 with a baccalaureate degree in business administration—featuring a concentration in international business—from the Fisher College of Business.

Before she started speaking, she was a successful entrepreneur, organizing and managing events: from youth sports tournaments to music festivals to trade shows. In 2013, she felt a deep desire to make an impact in her community. In February 2013 she gave her first public speech at Ignite Boulder, addressing the pejorative use of the word “gay.” The message resonated far beyond Boulder with over half a million views and still ranks as the most viewed Ignite talk of all time. The course of her life was changed forever.

“Ash Beckham is an engaging speaker and her magnetism is evident in her TEDx talks. As an advocate for marginalize populations, her message should resonate with many professionals as we look to the next conference,” says Ashley.

With over 300 public talks under her belt, including Harvard University, Proctor & Gamble, and the CIA, Ash is now a highly sought-after diversity, inclusion, and leadership keynote. Online videos of her TEDx talks “Coming Out of Your Closet” and “Owning Your Duality” have gone viral with more than eight million YouTube views. Significantly, her message has also become a topic of global discussion. Ash continues to reach millions as her inspiring speeches are experienced in classrooms, boardrooms and auditoriums around the world.

“Ash explores how leaders today need to master the art of inclusive leadership. Ash shares funny and relatable, yet poignant, stories to help us recognize the power of empathy, respect, and conversation,” says Walter. Ash will deliver her keynote address during the Closing General Session of NIRSA 2019 taking place on Tuesday, February 19 from 1:00pm-2:30pm.

Join the health and wellbeing revolution

For more information about the 2019 NIRSA Annual Conference & Campus Rec and Wellness Expo, stay tuned to the event website. More information about registration and will be posted as it becomes available in the next couple of months. Registration will open in early November.

  • For more information, please contact NIRSA Director of Profession Development Kristen Gleason.
Director of Professional Development at |

Kristen Gleason is currently the Director of Professional Development at NIRSA