Lecture Series

Ethical Thinking in Modern Times

This lecture series at Saint John's University brings to campus leading figures from the media and culture to engage the community in a conversation on the ethical and intellectual challenges of their work in the context of these global times. The University Chair in Critical Thinking at Saint John's University sponsors this series with additional support from other programs and departments on campus.



Theo Dorgan was born in Cork in 1953. Award-winning poet, prose writer, novelist, and editor, Theo's poetry and prose have been noted as "...vivid, sensual, technically brilliant..." and "unflinching in facing up to death." Among his awards are the Listowel Prize for Poetry, 1992, the O'Shaughnessy Prize for Irish Poetry, 2010, and 2015 Irish Poet of the Year. "To live life is not so simple, but Dorgan's great gift is to make it seem precisely simple...and yet of total importance." - Carol Ann Duffy, Bernard O'Donoghue, The Irish Times. View Theo's poetry reading at the Saint John's Pottery here.

Adam Zagajewski is a Polish poet, novelist, translator, and essayist. He was awarded the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. In conjunction with the English Department, the Chair in Critical Thinking, along with other academic departments at CSB/SJU, Adam visited our campus in March 2015.  He was born in Lwów (since January 1, 1946 Lvov, Ukrainian SSR). The Zagajeski family was expelled from Lwów by the Ukrainians to central Poland the same year. In 1982 he emigrated to Paris, but in 2002 he returned to Poland and resides in Kraków. His poem "Try To Praise The Mutilated World", printed in The New Yorker, became famous after the 11 September attacks. He is currently a faculty member at the University of Chicago and a member of its Committee on Social Thought.

James Silas Rogers is a Minnesota-based essayist and poet. He is the author of the chapbook Sundogs (2006), and his poems have appeared in many journals and on Garrison Keillor's "Writers Almanac." His creative nonfiction has appeared in New Letters, Notre Dame Magazine, Ruminate, and his work has been chosen as "notable" in Best American Essays. Rogers edits New Hibernia Review, an Irish Studies quarterly published by the University of St. Thomas.



To celebrate Patrick's new book, The Commandant of Lubizec, The University Chair in Critical Thinking , Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, and Saint John's Pottery invited a community reading group on March 27, 2014, at the Pottery Studio on Saint John's University campus to share thoughts on The Commandant of Lubizec and visit with Patrick Hicks, a 1992 SJU alumni. 

On February 27, 2014, we celebrated the publication of Larry Haeg's Harriman vs Hill - Wall Street's Great Railroad War. The Saint John's Pottery Studio hosted the event, which was sponsored by the College of Saint Benedict Literary Arts Institute, Saint John's Pottery Studio, McCarthy Center, and the University Chair in Critical Thinking. An alumni and former member of the SJU staff, Larry has remained active on both campuses serving on the CSB Board of Trustees and lending his advice and support to both campuses. He had a long and successful career in communications and the media starting from his earlier days as a broadcast journalist with WCCO and continuing through his role as Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications for Wells Fargo.

To celebrate the new edition of Simon's Night, The University Chair in Critical Thinking, the Pottery Studio, the Saint Benedict/Saint John's University English Department and the College of Saint Benedict Literary Arts Institute invited a community reading group on January 22, 2014, to the Pottery Studio on Saint John's University campus to share thoughts on Simon's Night and memories of Jon's days at Saint John's. 



National correspondent for The Atlantic, commentator for National Public Radio, and author, James Fallows joined in conversation with Gary Eichten, Minnesota Public Radio news editor at large. For video, Fallows/Eichten. For MPR audio, Fallows/Eichten.

Dan Barry

Dan Barry, an author and New York Times columnist, presented a reading and conversation from his most recent book Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball's Longest Game on October 11, at the Saint John's Pottery Studio.



Anthony Bukoski

On September 14, 2011, we welcomed Anthony Bukoski to our campus. Bukoski has published four other collections of short stories: Children of Strangers (1993), Polonaise (1998), Time Between Trains (2003), and Twelve below Zero (2008). He has been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize and received the first award for literature by the Polish Institute of Houston.



Peter Quinn

Peter Quinn, novelist, memorist, and foremost chronicler of New York City and especially its Irish-American community, visited Saint John's University in Collegeville, MN,  for a reading and discussion about his latest book, The Man Who Never Returned.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks visited Saint John's University on March 2, 2011 to read and discuss his most recent book of poetry, This London. He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Finding the Gossamer (2008), This London (2010), and he is also the editor of A Harvest of Words: Contemporary South Dakota Poetry (2010). His work has appeared in journals such as Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Virginia Quarterly Review, Natural Bridge, New Ohio Review, and many others.



Marv Davidov and Carol Masters were our guests on January 29, 2010 at the Saint John's Pottery Studio. They shared with us their reflections from Marv's recently published biography, You Can Do That.

Carol Connolly joined us on October 14, 2009, for an an evening of poetry and conversation.

Senator Chuck Hagel spoke to us on America Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions...Strait Answers, on September 23 in the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater.




Poet, musician, wit, and polemicist, Bill Holm is one of a kind. A Minnesotan of Icelandic ancestry, his travels have taken him all over the world, providing the material for a number of rich and memorable books. In The Windows of Brimnes, Holm repairs Brimnes, his fisherman's cottage on the shore of a fjord in northern Iceland. Looking west from this place of seemingly endless and kaleidoscopic light, and surrounded by little more than the sound of the sea and the birds beyond his windows, he considers America "my home, my citizenship, my burden." In contrast with the warmth and genuine community of Iceland, its traditions of secularism, pacifism, and love of nature, poetry, and music, Holm sees an America in danger of betraying the ideals of liberty and freedom that animated its founding.




J. Peter Scoblic

The CSB/SJU community welcomed  J. Peter Scoblic, Executive Editor of The New Republic and author of U.S. v. Them: Conservatism and George W. Bush in the Age of Nuclear Terror. Scoblic spoke on April 21, 2008, in the Centenary Room at Saint John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota.




E. J. Dionne

E. J. Dionne wasthe inaugural speaker at the Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture Series. Dionne praised McCarthy as a "poetic Isaiah whose plain literacy puts many other politicians to shame" and that rare politician "willing to stand alone in the hope that, once in a while, something good might happen." For audio, visit MPR's MIDDAY.

Charles Simic

Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Charles Simic held a free public reading while conducting a residency on November 14-17 at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University.




Lech Walesa

The 2005-06 series began with a guest lecture by Lech Walesa, former President of Poland.




S. Cyril Mooney

The series in 2004-2005 began with a conversation called "From the Streets of Calcutta: Teaching the Homeless and the Rural Poor of India" by S. Cyril Mooney of Loreto Day School in Sealdah, Calcutta.


Previous Speakers


Anne Fadiman is an author, essayist, and editor who touched many hearts on the evening of September 22, 2003 at Saint John's University as she spoke on her book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures.

Fadiman's first book chronicles the trials of an epileptic Hmong child and her family living in Merced, California. Fadiman's sensitive, incisive treatment of the unbreachable gulf between the Hmong and American medical systems won her a 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Download an audio file of her talk here. For more information, visit Anne Fadiman at Barclay Agency.

James Fallows

Award winning author and national correspondent for The Atlantic, James Fallows spoke on March 11, 2003 at Saint John's University on the imminent and long term perils of the Bush administration's unfolding war in Iraq.

Speaking to a record crowd that filled the auditorium and adjoining halls, Fallows focused on the complex diplomatic, historical, and ethical issues of Washington's drive to war and our projected occupation of Iraq.

To download an audio file of the talk, visit Iraq The Fifty-first State. Earlier, Fallows was the featured guest on MPR's MIDDAY. Download his commentary and Q&A with the audience here. Read more about Fallows and find additional links to his articles on Iraq and related media commentaries at About James Fallows.

Abraham Verghese

Acclaimed physician and author Abraham Verghese spoke on "The Search for Meaning in the Medical Profession" and the lessons learned from his nationally acclaimed memoir of HIV/AIDS, My Own Country.

"It was the gentleness of his voice," one Saint John's student replied when asked what most struck him about the talk by Verghese on campus.

Verghese visited Saint John's University and spoke to on the theme of "The Search for Meaning in Medical Life". Speaking to a full house, Verghese alternated from at times reading selected passages from My Own Country, to sharing his reflections on lessons learned from a plague that transformed his profession, community, and personal life.

Brenda Wilson

We welcomed NPR's Brenda Wilson to speak on the AIDS pandemic in South Africa.

Fred de Sam Lazaro

Fred de Sam Lazaro of "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer" presented a lecture in which he spoke of the challenges of covering issues of globalization in our time.