Lincoln at UIS: The Annual Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series

The Young Lincoln

Did you ever meet Abraham Lincoln when you were a student at UIS/SSU?

Today, students on campus can greet Abraham Lincoln every day that they cross the quad. But students have been encountering Lincoln at UIS long before the Young Lincoln statue was installed in 2016.

Here are a few early examples of Lincoln’s presence at UIS.

  • In 1974, for example, a Symposium on Lincoln, sponsored by Sangamon State and the IL State Historical Society, was held at the Old State Capitol.
  • Two years later in 1976, a 5-day symposium on “Lincoln’s Thought and the Present” took place at Sangamon State. Many additional academic and art presentations on Lincoln occurred in the following years.
  • In 2000, Lincoln scholarship at UIS took a big step forward in establishing the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies, made possible through a gift from Dr. Richard E. Vaden and his family. Held by Dr. Phillip Shaw Paludan until his death in 2007, the position is now held by Dr. Michael Burlingame, also a renowned Lincoln scholar.

Annual Lincoln Scholarship at UIS

On November 19, 2002, another important Lincoln event took place at UIS: the Inaugural Lincoln Legacy Lecture. The series has been held every year since that time. The 2017 lecture is scheduled for Thursday, October 12, 2017, in Brookens Library, on the topic of Lincoln and Education.

The lecture series has been sponsored by the Center for State Policy and Leadership, in cooperation with the Chancellor Naomi Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies (with many additional co-sponsors and support from alumni and friends).

Unique to this lecture series is the dual focus on issues important to Lincoln in his day and still important to us today. The first Lecture, for example, was on Lincoln and Race. Additional issues have included ethics and power, the environment, voting rights, and America’s struggle for equality.

Dr. Barbara Ferrara, who coordinated the Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series until her retirement in May, 2017, says that one big advantage of the lectures is that students and the public learn “that history is about the past and the present.”

Early in the series, three separate lectures were held, one each on successive weeks, but now the format includes opening remarks by the Lynn Chair, Dr. Michael Burlingame, two 30-minute lectures by Lincoln scholars, and 30 minutes for open discussion with the audience.

People come back year after year. In fact, more than 5,000 students and community members have attended the lectures over the years, including 600 who attended a special symposium in April 2015 before a re-enactment of Lincoln’s Funeral. The Series’ longevity has provided a special connection between the University and the community.

What Gives the Series Its Enduring Value?

“Number one has to be the subject!” said Ferrara. “There’s no end to all the dimensions of Abraham Lincoln, his times, his leadership, the Civil War—all of that. Those of us with an interest never tire of reading and thinking and discussing how we can apply the lessons and the example of Abraham Lincoln to our times today.”

In his opening remarks for the event, Michael Burlingame praises Lincoln’s example of psychological maturity, moral clarity and unimpeachable integrity and says we could all benefit from that example.

It’s no wonder that UIS, with an emphasis on preparing citizens for public service, highlights Abraham Lincoln’s example through the Lincoln Legacy Lectures.

Additional reasons for the Series’ growth and success? Consistently high quality of the event and its format, the ability of Dr. Burlingame (and Dr. Paludan before him) to invite highly respected scholars—and their financial support for the speakers’ costs, the support of the ECCE Speaker Series, and the sustained support of UIS alumni and donors for the event.

For More Information….

Learn more about the Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series and the 2017 lectures on Lincoln and Education, with a synopsis of topics to be covered. For more information, email Rob Fafoglia who now coordinates the Lecture Series or call Rob at 217-206-7163.