|Columbia University Archives|
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Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
This collection is arranged chronologically.
The records document the University Lecture series, from its beginning in 1972 to 1998. The files contain information about the speakers (cv, bio, clippings, and articles), event press release, advertisement, flyer/poster, invitation, guest lists, rsvp cards, dinner seating charts, Provost's introductory remarks, correspondence and other details about the logistics of the event. For a few, there is a transcript of the lecture. The electronic files consist of programs, posters, guest lists, biographies, planning documents, and photographs covering the years 2002 to 2016.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
All administrative records of the University are restricted for 25 years from the date of creation.
This collection is located offsite. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Digital files can only be viewed in the reading room at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library on a specially configured laptop. Please reserve a laptop by selecting the checkbox in the container list.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); University Lectures records; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.
The Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs records (UA#0083) include a number of the introductory remarks and related correspondence. Box 596 has most of Provost Cole's remarks, from Walter Mischel (1989) to Shree Nayar (2002). Additional remarks can be found in Box 584. Box 612 has the introduction to Andre Delbanco's lecture in 2003. The Historical subject files (UA#0002) contain announcements and invitations as well as more recent materials. The Office of Public Affairs photograph collection (UA#0109) has photos of the lectures and dinners, 1981-2006.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.
This collection was processed by Joanna Rios (July 2016) and the finding aid was written by Joanna Rios (February 2021).
2021-02-10 Content list published (JR)
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
The University Lecture series was created to provide an opportunity for the Columbia community to hear from one of their own faculty members. Provost William Theodore deBary claimed that before the University Lectures were inaugurated, "there was no regular provision for the University community as a whole to gather to hear some of the most distinguished members discuss their own works… Many leading scholars and teachers were … invited to give public lectures at other institutions around the world, but largely confined to their classrooms on the Columbia campus."
Lionel Trilling was the first University Lecturer. Trilling delivered the first Thomas Jefferson lecture of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, DC on April 26, 1972, and few days later, on May 1, he delivered the same lecture, "Mind in the Modern World," to the Columbia community at the Low Library Rotunda. The invitation from the President and the Provost called it "a lecture," but with that one talk, the series of University Lectures was born. In the fall, Provost deBary announced to the members of the faculty and staff that they were "planning further University lectures, which will present the views of distinguished members of the faculty on topics of general interest." The memo from October 1972 includes the names and dates for the 1972-1973 lectures as well as the speakers for the following academic year.
In his appeal to the Deans about possible speakers, Provost Jonathan Cole claimed that the University lecturer is "an outstanding faculty member whose record of achievement is of particular note," and "ideal candidates are able to speak in an interesting and engaging way to an audience of non-specialists." The University Lecture series, as he described it in 2002, was "intended to provide opportunities for the New York Community, and of course, more particularly the local Columbia folks to learn about the work of Columbia's most distinguished scientists and scholars. The lectures are designed to reach an audience that goes well beyond one's discipline or specialty." As such, the lectures cover a wide range of topics: Japanese culture, First Amendment rights, the El Nino phenomenon, the legality of pornography, Soviet-American relations during the Cold War, DNA and evolution, composers and librettists, the Amiens Cathedral in France, avant-garde architecture, and organ transplants.
From 1972-1973 to 1997-1998, there were usually three speakers each academic year (fall, winter and spring). The series changed to a semiannual event starting in 1998-1999. Originally, the Office of the Provost coordinated the event, which included a dinner, lecture and reception. Since 2003, the series has been managed by the President's Office, as part of the University Programs and Events office.