Messenger/University Lectures

The University Lectures and the Messenger Lectures target the whole campus.

Messenger Lectures

Cornell’s Messenger Lecture series was established in 1924 by a gift from Dr. Hiram Messenger, a Cornell graduate of 1880 and a longtime teacher of mathematics. The terms of the original gift established “a fund to provide a course of lectures on the Evolution of Civilization for the special purpose of raising the moral standard of our political, business, and social life.” Dr. Messenger’s bequest provided for “twelve lectures per year, delivered by the ablest non-resident lecturer or lecturers obtainable.” (Note: There are not twelve Messenger Lectures per year now, see below.)

The Messenger Lectures are one of the most important of the Cornell extracurricular activities. The scope of Dr. Messenger’s original charter for the lecture series and the generosity of his gift have enabled Cornell to bring to the campus some of the world’s leading scholars and public figures. Traditionally, the Committee designates one Messenger nominee each semester to present a series of either three or six lectures.

University Lectures

The University Lecture fund was first endowed at the beginning of the twentieth century by Goldwin Smith, a distinguished historian of English birth who, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s phrase, wanted to “open an intercourse with the world.” The designation “University Lecturer” is given to a speaker whose subject is likely to draw, on the occasion of presenting a single lecture, a wide audience from a range of departments or programs.


The University Lectures Committee administers the several University lecture funds and serve informally as a clearinghouse for other general lectures and scheduling. Some details:

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