Marten de Vos - Seven Liberal Arts


Celebrating a Liberal Arts Tradition on the Heights

For fifty years, the Humanities Series has enriched the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual lives of Boston College students, faculty, and staff by offering a remarkable range of speakers, artists, and performers. The direct forerunner of Humanities Series, the David B. Steinman Visiting Poets Series, ran in the 1957-1958 academic year and was administered by Rev. Francis W. Sweeney, S.J.  This series was made possible by a sizeable financial gift by engineer David Steinman that enabled Boston College to pay the lecture fees of Ogden Nash, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot and other speakers.

The following year, the series was renamed the “Humanities Series” which reflected a broadening of the series’ scope to include writers of disciplines other than poetry as well as other types of creative artists.  Over the years, speakers have included poets, novelists, dramatists, theologians, historians, classicists, and actors.  In the 1960s, the University assumed the financial responsibility and gave Father Sweeney an annual budget to pay the lecturers’ fees.  In 1987, the Lowell Institution began contributing funds to the lecture series and they became formally known as the “Lowell Lectures.”  Over the years, Boston College has been exposed to an amazing range of talent, including twenty-two of the Library of Congress’s Poet Laureate Consultants and four Nobel Prize winners in literature, thanks to efforts of Father Sweeney and the Humanities Series.

After four decades of service, Father Sweeney retired in 1998 as Director of the Humanities Series and was succeeded by Professor Paul Doherty who continues to provide successful leadership of what has become a cultural tradition on the Heights.  The exhibit includes additional information about Father Sweeney and Professor Doherty.

The exhibit celebrates the first fifty years of the Humanities Series by showcasing works written by or about a selected number of speakers who visited Boston College over the past five decades. While the exhibit’s emphasis is on the lecturers, it should be remembered that the Humanities Series also offered a number of theater, music, and dance performances as well as art exhibits.  The exhibit also includes photographs, letters, and other items from the University Archives which document the history of the Series.  The books highlighted in the exhibit were selected in order to give a glimpse of the astonishing array of creative individuals who over the years have made the Humanities Series a consistently stimulating event.



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