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College of Arts and Sciences

Townsend Lecture Series

Through accessible talks by renowned scholars, the Townsend Lecture Series explores two topics that were the passions of Dr. J. Ives Townsend: the impact of biological sciences on society, and southern culture.

2024 Townsend Lecture Canceled

Unfortunately, the Townsend Lecture set for Tuesday, March 19 was canceled. The featured speaker of the event, Bakari Sellers, was unable to attend the lecture due to a scheduling conflict. Below is a message from Sellers.

“Hello to my University of South Carolina family. Surely you know that I would like to be there with you on this very special occasion. There was an oversight in terms of my schedule, and there is a matter on the West Coast that I must attend to. Please note in the spirit of the love that I have for the great state of South Carolina and my alma mater that I will make myself available for an event at a future date.”

We will provide updates if the event is able to be rescheduled. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.

About the Townsend Lectures

Dr. J. Ives Townsend was a native of Greenwood, South Carolina. In 1996, as Professor Emeritus of Human Genetics at the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, he established an endowment in the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation to fund the Townsend Lectures. The lectures honor his parents (Joel Ives Townsend, 1911, and Emma Chiles Cothran Townsend) and grandparents (Robert Wallace Townsend, who attended the University of South Carolina in 1883-1884, and Amelia Dalton Carter Townsend). Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and many other relatives, including two great-great-grandfathers who graduated from the institution in the 1820s, Dr. Townsend attended the university and graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry with a minor in Biology in 1941. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Dr. Townsend strongly believed that the sciences, the arts, and the humanities are not separate branches of knowledge, but should be integrated within an academic setting. In addition to being a scientist, he was a connoisseur of Southern art and architecture. Thus, in making his gift to the university, he stipulated that the lectures alternate between two topics: “The Impact of the Biological Sciences on Society” and “Southern Culture”. He cared deeply for students, and admitted that his true goal was to make a significant difference in their lives. He often stated: “Today's students deserve all that I am able to give them”.

Dr. Townsend passed away on July 29, 2005 at the age of 85.

Past Lectures

- Shirley Tilghman, "Homo sapiens 2.0: Will Modern Genetics Change Who We Are?", a Biology lecture

 - Jeff Gordon, a Biology lecture

- Edward Ayers, "Southern Journey: The American South in Motion, 1790-2020", a Southern Studies lecture

- Elizabeth Engelhardt, "Boardinghouse Reach: Foodways, Gender, and Southern Cultures", a Southern Studies lecture

- Carole Heilman, "Intersecting Societies: Our Relationship with the Microbial World", a Biology lecture

- Siddhartha Mukherjee, "Writing A Biography of Cancer", a Biology lecture

- Tony Horwitz, a Southern Studies lecture

- John Shelton Reed, "The Balkans of Barbecue: Pit-Cooked Meat in the Carolinas", a Southern Studies lecture

- Chris Field, "Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptations and Solutions", a Biology lecture

- Michael Ruse, "The Evolution-Creation Struggle: An American Story", a Biology lecture

- Rudolf Jaenisch, "Nuclear Cloning, Stem Cells and Reprogramming of the Genome", a Biology lecture

- Jacqueline Michel, "The Gulf War Oil Spill Twelve Years Later: Biological Consequences of ECO-Terrorism", a Biology lecture

- William R. Ferris, "Memory and Sense of Place in the American South",  a Southern Studies lecture

- D.A. Henderson, "The Darker Side of 21st Century Biology", a Biology lecture

- Sterling Stuckey, "The State of Scholarship on Slave Art and Labor", a Southern Studies lecture

- Graham T. T. Molitor, "Promise and Perils in the Future of Biotechnology and the Life Sciences", a Biology lecture

- Wendell D. Garrett, "Southern Silver: Three Centuries of Craft, Beauty & Tradition", a Southern Studies lecture

- Robert N. Proctor, "Racial Hygiene: How Doctors and Biomedical Scientists Organized Hitler's Program of Mass Murder", a Biology lecture

- Richard Guy Wilson, "Is There A Southern Architecture?", a Southern Studeis lecture

- James Gordon, "Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: Prescription for the New Millenium", a Biology lecture

- Bob Mondello, "What I Learned about the South from the Movies", a Southern Studies lecture

- Thomas R. Meagher, "Evolutionary Biology in the New Millennium", a Biology lecture

- Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Martha R. Severens and Patricia Moore Shaffer, "Defining Southern Art", a Southern Studies lecture

- Lee M. Silver, "Remaking Eden: Human Cloning and Far Beyond in a Brave New World", a Biology lecture

- Shelby Foote, "The Novelist as Historian", a Southern Studies lecture


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