The annual Professor John Howard Birss Memorial Lecture Series at Roger Williams University provides a unique opportunity to study a single text in depth and to investigate why these significant works remain relevant for modern readers. Each year, the University celebrates a book with a prominent anniversary. Past selections have included Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird;” Elie Wiesel’s “Night;” Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road;” Ray Branbury’s “Fahrenheit 451;” and Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22.” As a companion to every lecture, an exhibit is mounted in the University Library that contains a variety of artifacts, photographs and historical records relating to the author and the text. The text chosen for the 2014-15 academic year is Richard Wright's novel Native Son, which will have a 75th anniversary in 2015.
The Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Lecture and Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Library Fund were established by University alumnus, Robert Blais '70, to honor Professor John Howard Birss, Jr., nationally recognized for his knowledge of first editions.