Annual Presidential Lectures

The Office of the President presents two esteemed lectures annually, the Distinguished Faculty Lecture and the Wilson Lecture.

The Distinguished Faculty Lecture honors the academic achievements of our faculty.

The Distinguished Faculty Lecture series, established in 1999, highlights accomplished and respected Wellesley faculty members and their intellectual and academic contributions in the field of liberal arts. In this annual event, the speaker delivers a public lecture on the topic of their choosing that underscores the meaning and value of academic inquiry.

The Wilson Lecture brings to campus some of the world’s most innovative and influential thinkers to discuss significant and emergent issues of today.

The Wilson Lecture Series was endowed by Carolyn A. Wilson, a journalist and war correspondent and a member of Wellesley class of 1910, to ensure that generations of Wellesley students would be familiar with the most important public figures and issues of their day. The inaugural lecture was given in 1962 by Katherine Anne Porter, whose novel, Ship of Fools, was set on the eve of World War II. Over the years, the Wilson Lecture has been given by Elie Wiesel, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Toni Morrison, Chinua Achebe, Paul Farmer, William Julius Wilson, and Al Gore, among others.

With her generous gift to Wellesley at the time of her death in 1960, Wilson hoped to “give future generations the splendid preparation for life she had received” (Wellesley magazine, Jan. 1962, p. 137). After Wellesley, she began working as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, where she was one of the few women war correspondents covering World War I. Her work for the Tribune took her around the world, from war-torn Europe to Asia, a rarity for women of her era; in the spring of 1915, she endured a brief stint in a German prison under suspicion she was a spy for the French government.

Carol, as her classmates and friends called her, was honored in the January 1962 issue of Wellesley magazine with a tribute by Dorothy Stiles Wellington, class of 1914, and Marjorie Merridith Hatheway, class of 1910. Of her bequest to Wellesley that established the Wilson Lecture Series, they wrote:

“In Carol’s bequest to Wellesley is reflected an appreciation of her Alma Mater’s gifts to her, as well as the use she herself made of them. In stipulating that 40% of her residual estate be used to establish a scholarship fund, she remembers herself, a scholarship girl. In the 40% which provides for the Wilson lectures is mirrored her life-long curiosity concerning human achievements, in a dozen exciting areas. In the 20% for the Faculty Fund she thanks those Wellesley teachers who stimulated that curiosity. More than that, she expresses abiding confidence that their successors will continue to open new vistas for eager minds.”

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