My Iona

Br. William B. Cornelia Lecture

On September 19, 1940, Iona University opened its doors and classroom to 83 students. On this day, the first president of the University, Br. William Barnabas Cornelia, convened the new students and faculty, challenging them to strive to high ideals both in their commitments to secular learning and to virtuous living. “May the same spirit of self-dedication,” he enjoined, “which characterized both teachers and students in the old Iona be the heritage of their successors in the new.”

A man of many talents, Br. Cornelia held a master’s degree in chemistry from the National University in Ireland and a doctorate in Romance languages from Columbia University. At St. Mary’s College, Nova Scotia, he started an engineering department and later became president. Besides his diverse academic interests and his love of sports, Br. Cornelia was known for his student-centered approach to education. A former student, Christopher Grant, once queried, “What did he possess that others lacked? He was gifted but so were others. He was thorough but so were others. He was fair and just but others were also. To me, the answer seems to be that he cared. He cared, and he cared tremendously about us and our problems. And, because he cared, we went to him. He did not seek us out; we went to him because we always had the feeling that he understood and that he cared.”

Iona University celebrates the life of Br. Cornelia as it commits itself to being a “caring academic community, inspired by the legacy of Blessed Edmund Rice and the Christian Brothers and the liberating power of education.”

Past Lectures & Speakers

  • "Everyday Activism: The Struggle for Justice in an Unjust World" – Jessica Dewhurst, director and co-founder of The Justice Desk, Cape Town, South Africa
  • "Barking to the Choir: Now Entering the Kinship of God" – Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • "Advocacy in the Edmund Rice Mission: Solidarity with those Made Poor" – Br. Stephen Casey, CFC, class of 1986 Coordinator for Mission Education and Immersion Edmund Rice Christian Brothers
  • "What Christian Institutions Need to Learn from the Black Lives Matter Movement"- Rev. Dr. Tamara Henry Interim, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean New York Theological Seminary
  • "Reflections from El Salvador: Seeking Peace in our Fragile but Interconnected World" – Sr. Peggy O’Neill, S.C. Renown Iona Professor and Missionary


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