God and Man at Yale: 60 Years Later

On November 4th, the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale held a conference examining the 60th anniversary of Buckley’s breakthrough book, God and Man at Yale, with speakers ranging from Dr. Henry Kissinger to the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol to National Review’s Rich Lowry.

In the afternoon, after opening remarks by Yale University President Richard Levin, three panel discussions examined the history of the book, its impact on higher education, and the conservative movement today. The first discusssion, moderated by Professor Ted Malloch, was titled “The History of God and Man at Yale.” The three presenters–Dr. Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation, Professor Gaddis Smith, and Professor Alvin Felzenberg, former chief spokeman for the 9/11 Commission– spoke on the book’s revolutionary indictment of what Buckley perceived as the irresponsibility of a university that had forgotten its roots in the American tradition of individualism and the Judeo-Christian tradition of faith. They also covered the blistering reaction Buckley earned from the university establishment and its defenders, who saw him as a mere upstart and a controversialist.

The second panel, “The Crisis in Higher Education: Is God and Man at Yale Relevant Today?”, was moderated by Professor Charles Kesler and featured three commentators known for their interest in the challenges facing today’s colleges and universities: Midge Decter, R. Emmett Tyrell Jr., the founder of The American Spectator, and Roger Kimball, author of Tenured Radicals and editor and publisher of The New Criterion.

The last panel, “Buckley’s Legacy: How Would the Patron Saint Turbo-Charge Conservatism?”, focused on Buckley’s life and the enduring value of his intellectual conservatism. Moderated by Buckley biographer Linda Bridges, the panel featured some of the afternoon’s biggest names, including Kristol, Lowry, and longtime Buckley assistant Neal Freeman. Lowry told the story of his work with Buckley at National Review, while Freeman discussed Buckley’s personal qualities and what he might say to the current batch of GOP presidential candidates.

Afterward, the conference adjourned for a gala at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, to celebrate the book’s anniversary, Buckley’s life, and the success of the Buckley Program on Yale’s campus. At dinner, members of Buckley’s family spoke, as did Kissinger and Lauren Noble, who founded the Buckley Program last year as a Yale senior. The 200-person crowd included alumni, faculty, students, and Buckley’s friends and family.

The Buckley Program regularly brings speakers to campus with an eye toward promoting intellectual diversity by encouraging intellectual conservatism. In addition, the program will be sponsoring student internships at conservative publications and institutes over the summer and faciliating a course on Buckley’s life and the rise of modern conservatism in the spring.