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Dr. C. John Sommerville, Professor of English History, Emeritus, University of Florida


October 12, 2011 at 7:00 PM EDT


Corson-Mudd Hall

Alan T. and Linda M. Beimfohr Lecture

We are very pleased to announce our first named lecture, the Alan T. and Linda M. Beimfohr Lecture, which will be given by University of Florida historian C. John Sommerville. This lecture is a gift of Carl ’76 and Elaine Neuss of Laguna Niguel, CA, in honor of the Beihmfors’ longtime commitment to Cornell. Alan Beimfohr, a 1966 graduate of Cornell’s College of Engineering and co-founder of Knightsbridge Asset Management, is a former President of the Cornell Alumni Association of Southern California and serves on the Advisory Council to the Cornell Financial Engineering Manhattan MFE program. The lecture series is designed to bring a public intellectual to Cornell to address issues related to faith in a pluralistic society.

Over the last ten years–essentially since 9/11–there has been a growing consensus that religion is not merely a matter of private opinion but rather a matter of public significance. In her 2006 memoir The Mighty and the Almighty, for example, former Secretary of State Madelaine Albright argued that governments ignore religion at their peril. That same year, John Sommerville published a fascinating book entitled The Decline of the Secular University (Oxford, 2006) that argued the same is true for universities. The marginalization of religious discourse, he argues, has constituted a great loss for our universities. What we need, Sommerville believes, is greater engagement with the world’s “traditions of inquiry”–including secularism as one among those traditions. Toward that end, his sequel is entitled Religious Ideas for Secular Universities (Eerdmans, 2009).

C. John Sommerville is professor emeritus of English History at the University of Florida, a member of the Intitute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and senior fellow at Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions. His books include The Decline of the Secular University(Oxford, 2006), How the News Makes us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society (InterVarsity, 1999), The News Revolution in England: Cultural Dynamics of Daily Information (Oxford, 1996), The Secularization of Early Modern England: from Religious Culture to Religious Faith (Oxford, 1992), The Discovery of Childhood in Puritan England (University of Georgia, 1992), and, most recently, Religious Ideas for Secular Universities (Eerdmans, 2009).



Chesterton House Painting