About the Berlin Family Lectures

History of the Berlin Family Lectures

Inaugurated in 2014 with a gift from Randy and Melvin Berlin, the Berlin Family Lectures brings to campus leading scholars, writers, and creative artists from around the world. Each academic year, the visitor delivers an extended series of lectures, participates in the university’s intellectual community, and develops a book for publication with the University of Chicago PressPrevious speakers include Lawrence Lessig, Amitav Ghosh, and Mario Vargas Llosa.

The series is curated by a committee of academic leaders in the Division of the Humanities, Division of Social Sciences, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, Franke Institute for the Humanities, and the University of Chicago Press. The programming is executed by the External Relations office in the Division of the Humanities.

About the Berlin Family

The annual lecture series is named for Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin, local philanthropists and longtime University supporters, in honor of their $3 million gift to the University of Chicago. Randy L. Berlin, AM’77, is a former lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School and a member and past chairperson of the Division of the Humanities Council. Melvin R, Berlin (March 23, 1929-July 26, 2019) was chairman emeritus and founder of Berlin Packaging LLC.

“The humanities provide a powerful lens for exploring the richness of human civilization and experience,” the Berlins said. “By engaging the most talented humanistic thinkers of our time, we hope that the Berlin Family Lectures will excite the broader University and Chicago community to think critically about our enduring values, make us aware of the possibility of alternative perspectives and extend our understanding of human nature.”

A 2008 gift from the Berlins allowed the Department of English to establish a professorship focused on the study of the novel, currently held by Maud Ellmann. The Berlins also provided support for the 2013 “Forms of Fiction: The Novel in English” conference at the University, which featured lectures by authors A.S. Byatt and Tom McCarthy.