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Mark your calendars! Get inspired by named lectures.

This spring, departments across Arts & Sciences are hosting speakers virtually for their named lecture series.


When campus shut down last spring, many of the scheduled memorial and distinguished lectureships were canceled or postponed. However, our departments remain committed to bringing a diverse set of new ideas and perspectives from speakers far and wide, and have worked to reconstitute these annual events in a virtual form this spring.

Below is an overview of some of the distinguished and memorial lecture series in Arts & Sciences this semester.

The Morrell Memorial Lecture in Asian Religions

February 11: Levi McLaughlin, “Religious Self-Cultivation as Politics: Examples from Grassroots-Level Activism in Japan”

The Morrell Memorial Lecture in Asian Religions commemorates the work of the late Professor Emeritus Robert E. Morrell, a specialist in Japanese literature and Buddhism who taught at Washington University for 34 years and who holds special significance for the campus, as Morrell was the first to teach a course on Buddhism. This annual series commemorates his life work by bringing distinguished scholars of Asian religions to campus. 

Past Speakers: Michael Bathgate, 2019; Robert Campany, 2018; Barbara R. Ambros, 2017. 

Ilene Katz Lowenthal and Edward Lowenthal Symposium Series

February 17: A Killing Cure: Education, Segregation and the Meaning of Health When Black Communities Disappear

As part of the Ilene Katz Lowenthal and Edward Lowenthal Symposium Series, the Department of Education welcomes featured speaker Dr. Noliwe Rooks, who is the W.E.B Du Bois Professor at Cornell University. After her presentation, Dr. Rooks will be joined by Dr. Amber Jones (Harris-Stowe State University), Dr. Jerome Morris (the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Urban Education at the University of Missouri - St. Louis), and Dr. Michelle Purdy (Washington University in St. Louis) for a conversation that connects the themes from her work to our local context in the St. Louis region.

Past Speakers: Gloria Ladson-Billings, 2018

McDonnell Distinguished Lecture Series

March 24: Colloquium: Katherine Freese, “Dark Matter in the Universe”
March 25: Public Lecture: Katherine Freese, “The Dark Side of the Universe”

The McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences sponsors the lecture series in memory of James Smith McDonnell, whose generous endowment led to the creation of the center in 1974.

Past Speakers: Kip S. Thorne, 2019; George Philander, 2018; Bill McKinnon, 2017; John P. Grotzinger, 2016; Roger J. Phillips, 2015

John and Penelope Biggs Residency in the Classics

March 22-25: Raffaella Cribiore

Each spring, a prominent classics scholar visits the campus for a week as the John and Penelope Biggs Resident. The Resident offers lectures and interacts with students and faculty over the course of the week. Established in 1990, the Biggs Residency in the Classics is the gift of John and Penelope Biggs, alumni of Washington University. This year, fifteen former Biggs Residents in Classics will return for three days of scholarship and fellowship.

Past Speakers: Julia Annas; 2020; Susan Rotroff, 2019; Robert Wallace, 2017; Daniel Mendelsohn, 2016; David Sedley, 2015

Faculty Book Celebration

April 1: Walter Johnson, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

The publication of a monograph or significant creative work is a milestone in the career of an academic. The Center for the Humanities commemorates this achievement annually during the Faculty Book Celebration. The event recognizes Washington University faculty from across campus by displaying their recently published works and large-scale creative projects and inviting two campus authors and a guest lecturer to speak at a public gathering. 

Recent past speakers include Daphne Brooks, 2020; Caroline Levine, 2019; and Nancy MacLean, 2018.

James E. McLeod Memorial Lecture on Higher Education

April 23: Bethany Nowviskie, Cultural Memory and the Peri-Pandemic Library

Founded by the Center for the Humanities in honor of the esteemed vice chancellor of students who passed away in 2011, the series focuses on the role of the liberal arts in higher education, a subject especially meaningful to Dean McLeod. Speakers include academics and journalists who have written about the liberal arts and higher education, both positively and critically, as well as noted people who talk about how the liberal arts affected their lives and their career choices.

Past Speakers: George J. Sanchez, 2019; Cathy Davidson, 2018; Sarah Ahmed, 2017; Christopher Newfield, 2016; Rebecca Ginsburg, 2015

Viktor Hamburger Lecture

May 7: Josh Sanes, Cell Types as Building Blocks of Neural Circuits

Born in Germany, Viktor Hamburger attended the Universities of Breslau, Heidelberg, Munich, and Freiburg. He earned his doctorate in zoology (experimental embryology) in 1925 from the University of Freiburg, where he studied with the renowned biologist and Nobel Laureate, Hans Spemann. As the recipient of a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1932, Dr. Hamburger came to the US, and in 1935 he joined Washington University. Known for his pioneering work in experimental embryology, neuroembryology, and the study of programmed cell death, as well as his work on NGF with Rita Levi-Montalcine and Stanley Cohen, Dr. Hamburger served as chairman of the Department of Zoology at WashU from 1941-1966. Though he retired in 1969, he continued his research until the mid-1980s. He passed away in 2001, just short of his 101st birthday.

Past Speakers: Mike Levine, 2019; Eve Marder, 2018; Olivier Pourquié, 2017; Martyn Goulding, 2016; Barbara Meyer, 2015

The Arts & Sciences communications team has a webinar license that departments may use for organizing events with larger anticipated attendance. Please contact us if you'd like to discuss this option. And, please remember to submit your upcoming events to the Arts & Sciences calendar