Starting in 1993, the Robert Salomon Morton Memorial Lecture has brought to campus a distinguished speaker each year to deliver the keynote Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week talk. Morton lecturers have included scholars, authors, directors, lawyers, and activists. Videos of the entire series are part of the archival collection of the Holocaust Awareness Committee at Northeastern, and may be found here.
The Morton Lecture is sponsored by the Gustel and Ernst Giessen Morton Lecture Fund, the Gustel Cormann Giessen Memorial Fund, and the Robert S. Morton Lecture Fund at Northeastern. The lectureship was created by Northeastern professor Bill Giessen.
History of the Robert Salomon Morton Memorial Lecture
Born in 1906 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Robert Salomon Morton was educated in the School of the Orthodox Synagogue, Kahal Adath Jeshurun. He was not only a witness to, but also the personal target of, Nazi persecution in the years leading up to World War II. A particularly harrowing experience in 1934 convinced him that he had no choice but to apply for immigration to the United States – a process that took three years, but finally resulted in his coming to Boston. For many years, he and his wife Sophie were caretakers of and caterers for the Hillel Foundation at Harvard University.
It was during his time at Hillel that a chance meeting at a barbershop brought Morton together with Bill Giessen, then a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Giessen had grown up and was educated in Germany during and following the Nazi period. The long-time friendship and ongoing conversation that resulted from this meeting helped to foster a sense of discovery between the two men.
Northeastern University Professor Bill Giessen established the fund in honor of his friend, Robert Morton. Both men have since died, and the lectureship is maintained by both families in memory of their inspiring friendship.