Father Columba Stewart at Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota
Father Columba Stewart, OSB, Benedictine monk, scholar of early religions, and executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, was named by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as the 2019 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. The NEH recognized Fr. Columba for digitally preserving ancient manuscripts of diverse world cultures that are at risk of being destroyed by weather, war, and civil unrest.
The lecture is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. Fr. Columba delivered his lecture, titled “Cultural Heritage Present and Future: A Benedictine Monk’s Long View,” on Monday, October 7, to a record audience at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., that was also livestreamed by the NEH.
In receiving the honor, Fr. Columba joins the ranks of past Jefferson Lecturers, including Rita Charon, Martha C. Nussbaum, Ken Burns, Walter Isaacson, Wendell Berry, Drew Gilpin Faust, John Updike, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Toni Morrison, Barbara Tuchman, and Robert Penn Warren.
On Wednesday, November 6, Governor Tim Walz led a celebration honoring Fr. Columba as the first Minnesotan to receive the Jefferson Lecture and presented a proclamation recognizing the significance of his work in preserving cultural heritage. The “Minnesota Celebrates Father Columba Stewart” event was held at the 3M Auditorium, Minnesota History Center, Saint Paul, and hosted by HMML, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Minnesota Humanities Center.
The program included a special 30-minute segment, titled “Why Cultural Heritage Matters Globally and Locally: A Conversation with Father Columba Stewart and PBS Contributor Fred de Sam Lazaro.” Their discussions ranged from general reactions to the themes of the Jefferson Lecture, to current hot spots for cultural preservation, to thoughts on what we can learn from studying ancient artifacts that can help us deal with the challenges we face in today’s society.
The program played to a sold-out live audience and was livestreamed by Twin Cities Public Television (TPT).
Joe Rogers, Director of External Relations
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
Saint John’s University
2835 Abbey Plaza, Collegeville, MN 56321
NEH names Fr. Columba 2019 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. Read more.
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