MACON – The Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Zeta Chapter of Georgia at Mercer University will host the fifth annual Malcolm Lester Phi Beta Kappa Lectures on Liberal Arts and Public Life March 24-25 in the Presidents Dining Room on the Macon campus.

Dr. Andrew Delbanco, Alexander Hamilton Professor of American Studies at Columbia University and president of the Teagle Foundation, will present three lectures on the theme “What Do Our Colleges and Universities Owe to Black Americans?” All lectures are free and open to the public.

“Andrew Delbanco is one of the most astute cultural historians in the United States and has written widely about the opportunities and challenges facing U.S. higher education. Over the course of his distinguished career, he has examined American concepts of freedom and liberty with attention to the gap between ideals and reality. In these lectures, he will discuss a persistent issue of inequality that challenges our democracy,” said Dr. David A. Davis, president of Mercer’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and editor of the Lester Lecture Series.

Dr. Delbanco’s opening lecture is titled “The Era of Slavery” and will take place March 24 at 11 a.m. It will be followed by “The Struggle for Inclusion” March 24 at 5 p.m. and “The Question of Reparations” March 25 at 11 a.m.

“I am honored by the invitation to deliver the Malcolm Lester Lectures and hope to open up discussion of one of the most pressing challenges we face in our struggle to become a more equitable society,” said Dr. Delbanco.

Dr. Delbanco’s most recent book, The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War (Penguin Press, 2018), was named a New York Times notable book and awarded the Lionel Trilling Award, the Mark Lynton History Prize, as well as the Anisfield-Wolf Prize for “books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and human diversity.”

Among his other books, Melville: His World and Work (Knopf, 2005) was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in biography, and College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be (Princeton University Press, 2012) has been translated into several languages. His essays appear in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation and other periodicals. 

Dr. Delbanco was elected president of the Society of American Historians for 2021-2022 and has been a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2001. That same year, he was named “America’s Best Social Critic” by Time magazine. In 2006, he was honored with the Great Teacher Award by the Society of Columbia Graduates, and in 2013, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society. In 2012, he was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

Dr. Delbanco earned his A.B., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University and holds honorary degrees from Ursinus College, Occidental College and Marlboro College.

Mercer’s Malcolm Lester Phi Beta Kappa Lectures are supported by a bequest from the late Dr. Malcolm Lester, a 1945 graduate of the University and former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In 2007, Dr. Lester made a gift for a lecture series on the liberal arts at Mercer once the University sheltered a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society, which it did in 2016. Additionally, the lectures are published by the University of Virginia Press, as requested by Dr. Lester, who earned his Ph.D. from U.Va.

About the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences serves as the academic cornerstone of one of America’s oldest and most distinctive institutions of higher learning. The oldest and largest of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges, it is a diverse and vibrant community, enrolling more than 1,900 students, dedicated to learning and service through the practice of intellectual curiosity, respectful dialogue and responsible citizenry. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers majors in more than 30 areas of study, including more than a dozen pre-professional academic tracks, with classes taught by an outstanding faculty of scholars. In 2015, Mercer was awarded a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society that recognizes exceptional achievement in the arts and sciences. For more information, visit