Pulitzer-Prize Winning Historian Speaks at Baylor for 2016 Beall-Russell Lecture

Sept. 22, 2016
David McCulloughAward-winning author and historian David McCullough will deliver the 2016 Beall-Russell Lecture in the Humanities at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26.

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WACO, Texas (Sept. 22, 2016) – Acclaimed author and historian David McCullough will give the 2016 Beall-Russell Lecture in the Humanities at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, in Waco Hall, 624 Speight Ave.

McCullough won his first Pulitzer Prize for his 1993 biography “Truman” on the life of American President Harry Truman. He won his second Pulitzer for his 2001 biography “John Adams.” McCullough also is a two-time winner of the National Book Award, and in 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award a United States citizen can receive.

“This is the kind of writer who not only entertains but also raises the bigger questions of how a well-thought-out life was and should be led, how one person can change history or chart a new course for a country,” said Alden Smith, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of classics in the College of Arts & Sciences. Smith has been a chair or co-chair on the committee of the Beall-Russell Lecture series since 2001.

Most recently, McCullough published “The Wright Brothers” on the history of the inventors Orville and Wilbur Wright. The book was on the “New York Times” Non-Fiction Best Sellers List for seven weeks in 2015.

“David McCullough’s contributions to the genre of biography are unsurpassed,” Smith said. “He takes a person, such as John Adams, or more than one person, in the case of the Wright brothers, and brings their stories to life.”

McCullough’s other works include “The Johnstown Flood,” “The Great Bridge,” “The Path between the Seas,” “Mornings on Horseback,” “Brave Companions,” “1776” and “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.”

McCullough also narrated the Ken Burns documentary miniseries “The Civil War,” the 2003 film “Seabiscuit,” and was the host of “The American Experience” on PBS for 12 years.

His Beall-Russell Lecture is titled “The Incomparable Advantage of Intellectual Curiosity.”

McCullough’s lecture will raise questions about why we study the past, how one person can make a difference and why the humanities are important today, Smith said.

“A college education is really about learning not to gain skills for the job market but to challenge oneself, to learn to love to learn, to think of a higher calling and personal philosophy as the guide of one’s life, to aspire to learning for learning’s sake and art for art’s sake—in other words, to cultivate an attitude of life-long learning and, in that process, to develop virtues such as humility, gentleness and courage in the face of all that life brings at you,” Smith said.

The Beall-Russell Lectures in the Humanities were established in 1982 with a donation from Virginia B. Ball to provide opportunities for students and faculty to learn from lecturers renowned in the humanities. Ball named the lecture series in honor of her mother, Mrs. John A. Beall, and Lily Russell, former dean of women at Baylor. In 1993, Ball also founded the Beall Poetry Festival.

Past lecturers have included poet Maya Angelou, author Amy Tan, journalist Timothy Egan and author Czeslaw Milosz, who won the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Approximately 1,400 people are expected to attend the Beall-Russell lecture this year, said Jan Holmes, development coordinator for the College of Arts & Sciences.

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required as seating is limited. Tickets are available in the Bill Daniel Student Center Ticket Office until Sept. 23. Any remaining tickets will be available in the Waco Hall Ticket Office at 2 p.m. on the day of the lecture.

Click here for more information about the Beall-Russell Lecture series, David McCullough, past lecturers and parking for the event.

by Kalli Damschen, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit www.baylor.edu/artsandsciences.

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