For Immediate Release —March 24, 2009
Media Relations Manager
Marjorie Brook Harding with photo of her late husband,
Walter, who was the world’s leading Thoreau scholar.
Marjorie Brook Harding Expands Endowment for Lecture Series Named in Memory of Late Husband
GENESEO, N.Y. – Geneseo resident Marjorie Brook Harding has significantly enlarged the endowment she created for an annual lecture at SUNY Geneseo in memory of her late husband, Walter Harding, who was a distinguished professor emeritus of English at Geneseo. Prior to his death in 1996, he was the world’s leading scholar on 19th-century author Henry David Thoreau.
Marjorie Harding originated the endowment in 2004 for the Harding Lecture, which has brought literature scholars from some of the most prominent English departments in the country to Geneseo for the fall event.
“We are truly grateful for Marjorie’s extraordinarily thoughtful gift,” said Geneseo President Christopher C. Dahl. “It will enhance this already successful lecture series, which has contributed significantly to the intellectual life of Geneseo. Her gift will assure that future generations of students and faculty will benefit from the tradition of scholarship and learning embodied in Walter Harding’s distinguished career. Without a doubt, the work he did here greatly advanced the national reputation of Geneseo and its English Department.”
During their visits to campus, Harding lecturers also have conferred with Geneseo students about their interests, advised them about graduate school and connected them with other scholars at research institutions.
“The Harding speakers have included some of the most important scholars of American literature in the country and we owe a great deal of gratitude to Mrs. Harding for providing this additional support,” said Richard Finkelstein, professor and chair of Geneseo’s English department. “Her gift is a fitting tribute to the legacy of her husband and to the profound scholarship he so generously left to the world.”
Harding authored more than 25 books and numerous articles on the life and work of Thoreau. His biography of Thoreau is still considered the definitive account of his life and was reprinted by Princeton University Press in 1992. He was the founding secretary and former president of the Thoreau Society, the oldest and largest international organization devoted to the study of any American author.
Harding joined the faculty at Geneseo in 1956 after teaching at the University of Virginia, Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Rutgers in 1950. He served as chair of SUNY Geneseo's English department for six years and was named a University Professor in 1966 and a Distinguished Professor in 1973. He retired in 1982 and a year later became the first SUNY faculty member to be awarded a SUNY Honorary Doctor of Letters degree.
Harding's family donated his extensive collection of more than 15,000 books, pamphlets, articles and other Thoreau memorabilia to his beloved Thoreau Society at Walden Woods in Concord, Mass. The collection includes all Thoreau first editions and first printings. The family generously ensured that SUNY Geneseo's Milne Library was able to make copies of Harding's works. The Walter Harding Collection consists of writings and 19th-century objects associated with Thoreau and transcendentalism.