Every year the Baylor chapter of Phi Beta Kappa presents the Albaugh Lecture, a lecture series generously endowed by Mrs. Oma Buchanan Albaugh in memory of her late husband, Roy B. Albaugh, a Waco business and civic leader from 1920 until his death in 1964. The purpose of the Albaugh Lecture is to bring a nationally renowned scholar, artist, or thinker to the campus of Baylor for the benefit of both the university community as well as the Waco community at large. Past speakers have included notable members of the arts, politics, and the sciences, such as Stephen J. Gould, Leon Kass, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and John Updike. The goal of this event is to sponsor a speaker who epitomizes the kind of excellence regarding the life of the mind that characterizes both Phi Beta Kappa and Baylor University, a person who is not just knowledgeable but somehow wise. That is one of the reasons why Phi Beta Kappa is partial to those speakers who are not only distinguished in their field but who can engage or affect other disciplines as well, for wisdom both integrates and surpasses academic specialization even as it profits from it.
This year’s speaker easily fits all of these criteria. Richard Wilbur is possibly America’s greatest living poet. He published his first poem when he was eight years old; he is 89 now and shows no sign of slowing down. Mr. Wilbur, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, has composed several volumes of poetry, won the Pulitzer prize twice, translated the plays of Molière and Racine, written several children’s books, and even worked with Leonard Bernstein to create the lyrics for the musical Candide. His work has, as the Washington Post puts it, an “enviable variety” which is “suffused with an astonishing verbal music and a compacted thoughtfulness that invite sustained reflection.” Mr. Wilbur’s presentation for us is entitled “An Evening with Richard Wilbur” and is guaranteed to be a success, for it will consist of him reciting some of his poems and talking about them. This is a rare opportunity to hear a first-rate poet decipher his own art.
The Albaugh Lecture will be held on Tuesday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the Barfield Drawing Room on Baylor’s campus, and is free and open to the public.