David Stam, the former Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries at the New York Public Library, will be the speaker for the inaugural Couper Phi Beta Kappa Lecture on Friday, Sept. 9, at 4 p.m. in the Hamilton Chapel. His talk is titled "An Army without Ammunition: Books and the College Library." The Couper Phi Beta Kappa Lecture honors Hamilton alumnus Richard "Dick" Couper '44 in recognition of Couper's commitment and contributions to the College and The Phi Beta Kappa Society. Each fall a distinguished speaker will be invited to present topics related to the College's special library collections or to present an issue related to libraries generally.
Couper has been a staunch advocate for and supporter of Phi Beta Kappa on campus and nationally. Seven years ago he and his wife, Patsy, established the Couper Phi Beta Kappa Book Prize, which Hamilton awards annually to the top 10 rising sophomores. Nationally, Couper has served as president of The Fellows of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, a select group of distinguished supporters whose efforts have made possible much of the success of the organization and whose tangible support has contributed greatly to its stability, according to The Phi Beta Kappa Society secretary John Churchill. Couper also was instrumental in securing a Mellon Foundation grant to enable the society to send scholars to present lectures at colleges that do not have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. In recognition of his service, the Fellows of Phi Beta Kappa created the Richard W. Couper Lecture. Couper and eight family members are Hamilton Phi Beta Kappa graduates.
Having served 46 years as a trustee of Hamilton, Dick Couper is second only to Elihu Root in length of tenure in that role. He has shown his support in many ways, including his contributions to Burke Library for special purchases and his establishment of an endowment for the Couper Librarian. Couper, his wife and his parents also established the Williams-Watrous-Couper Fund, an endowment that supports faculty research and teaching improvement. He has contributed his time as well as his financial support to the College and has been recognized for his efforts with the 2004 Volunteer of the Year Award.
The David Stam lecture will be held on Friday, September 9, at 4 p.m. in the Hamilton Chapel. Stam left the New York Public Library to become the University Librarian at Syracuse University where he is now the University Librarian Emeritus. He earned his doctorate in English history at Northwestern University and also served as librarian of John Hopkins University's principal library. A book collector with an interest in books on the Arctic, Stam is organizing an exhibit of Arctic books, some of which will come from the Hamilton Library collection, for the Grolier Club in December. He also edited the "International Dictionary of Library Histories" in 2001.
Couper served for 10 years as first full-time president and CEO of The New York Public Library and worked with Stam during that time. Couper was also deputy commissioner of higher education with the New York State Education Department and president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honorary society in America. Membership in it provides wide recognition of academic achievement. The Hamilton College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established in 1869, making it the fifth oldest chapter in the state and giving it the designation as the Epsilon Chapter of New York. The Hamilton Chapter was the 20th founded in the U.S.