From 1951 to 1974, Wagner College annually organized an event called Faith and Life Week. Each year, it brought multiple speakers to campus who would challenge students to reflect upon and to renew their own faith, and to live accordingly.
“Almost everyone is willing to agree that he is not adequate for what the world urgently needs — a leadership that knows the way to establish justice and freedom and the peace that are based upon them,” said the lectureship’s objective, printed in the first program for Faith and Life Week, February 25–28, 1951. “Faith and Life Week is a program designed for this very purpose.”
Originally, the lectures focused specifically on the Christian faith and its personal practice, and the featured speakers were pastors and theologians. But in the 1960s, as the civil rights movement called not just Christians but all people to attend to the concerns of social justice, Faith and Life Week also started incorporating these topics.
In 1964, the year President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, barring discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” Faith and Life Week took a look at “racial intermarriage, prejudice, and race relations.” One of the speakers was civil rights leader James Farmer, director of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE). A few years later, Shirley Chisholm, the Brooklyn Congresswoman who was the first black woman elected to Congress, was a featured speaker.
Faith and Life Week themes of the late 1960s and early 1970s included other broad-ranging topics relating faith to civil life and global concerns: “Science and Religion: Two Truths in One?” (1965), “The New Beat: Encounters of East and West” (1967), “Civil Religion” (1973), and “Christianity and the Arts” (1974).