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.”

2023 Br. William B. Cornelia Lecture, 9/20

The 2023 Brother William B. Cornelia Lecture will be held on Wednesday, September 20, at 12:30 p.m. in Mulcahy Gymnasium. The Cornelia Lecture celebrates the life of Iona's first President, Br. Cornelia, by reaffirming Iona's commitment to being a “caring academic community, inspired by the legacy of Blessed Edmund Rice and the Christian Brothers and the liberating power of education.

This year's Cornelia Lecture will be delivered by Fr. Álvaro Ramos. Fr. Álvaro Ramos serves the Parish of Saint Teresa of Calcutta in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he works with the Collaboration and Effort Association (Asociación Colaboración y Esfuerzo (ACOES)), a mission serving 12,000 students in the most marginalized areas of Honduras. This Honduran NGO develops a variety of educational, health and welfare projects for disadvantaged students and their families.

Fr. Álvaro is originally from Spain and holds a JD from the University Pontificia de Comillas (ICADE - Jesuit University of Spain), and an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before his ordination as a priest, Fr. Álvaro practiced law at the English law firm Freshfields and was an investment banker at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

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

Contact Us

Office of Mission & Ministry

Robert V. LaPenta Student Union

(914) 637-2772 (914) 637-2772