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Giovanni Costigan

Giovanni Costigan taught the popular History Lecture Series for 15 years.

Photo courtesy of John A. Moore

For nearly four decades, winter in Seattle has meant wet weather,
celebrating the holidays and coming to the University of Washington for history lectures presented by the UW’s best professors.

This winter, the UW Alumni Association and UW Department of History are hosting the 36th annual History Lecture Series. Robert Stacey, professor of history and divisional dean of Arts and Humanities, will focus on the medieval origins of the modern Western world.

One of the UW’s most popular lifelong learning programs, the History
Lecture Series began in 1975 and for 15 years, it featured History Professor Emeritus Giovanni Costigan, the first recipient of the UW’s Distinguished Teaching Award, in 1970.

A tireless humanitarian and outspoken opponent of the U.S. war policy in Vietnam, Costigan was forced to retire in 1975 due to a state law that prohibited college professors from teaching past the age of 70. A public debate ensued, and the UW Alumni Association created a lecture series to give Costigan the opportunity to continue teaching, which he did until he died of a heart attack in 1990.

Two years following Costigan’s mandatory retirement, the state Legislature passed a bill widely referred to as the “Costigan bill” that permitted professors to teach after they turned 70. When Costigan died, the UWAA looked again to the History Department for Costigan’s replacement and found a gem in now-retired Professor Jon Bridgman.

Bridgman taught the popular series for
16 years, exploring topics ranging from the history of the movies to the Japanese involvement in World War II. Today, the History Lecture Series remains an important part of the UWAA and College of Arts & Sciences lecture season—and one more reason to look forward to winter.
—Derek Belt

11 Responses to UWAA Saves the Day: The History of the History Lecture Series

  1. Sylvia Haven says:

    At every Costigan event I attended there was a video camera recording his presentation. Where are those now? Have they been transcribed to DVD? Is there a repository somewhere of all of his work?

    • beltd says:

      Hi Sylvia,

      Good question. Let me check on this and I’ll get back to you. I do believe there are Costigan lectures available, at least in audio files. Thanks for asking!

    • Steve Bouck says:

      Hello Sylvia,
      I wonder if you received information about the existence of recordings-audio or video- of Giovanni Costigan’s lectures? I attended his lectures on the Humanist Tradition in the 1970′s, while attending UW. Mr. Costigan was a remarkable man and lecturer and I have been asking and hunting around for years trying to find any recordings of his lectures because his manner of presentation was quite magical in its effect, adding greatly to the impact of the philosophy he spoke of with such passion and conviction.
      Any leads you may have will be appreciated. Thank you.
      Steve Bouck

      • Sylvia Haven says:

        Hello Steve,

        I have never heard from Belt about the location of any transcriptions.

        But there was a famous debate between Costigan and William F. Buckley at the U or W. All those attending agreed that Costigan put poor Buckely to shame. It must have been recorded.
        S. Haven.

  2. Kate Sudar Sprague says:

    I came upon this entry while searching for Giovanni Costigan lectures for my mom, who attended the lectures while an undergrad at UW. I am wondering whether any recordings were found, and if so, where they might be available?

  3. Gilbert Murray says:

    As an ancient, 1950′s, UW student of Prof. Costigan’s English and Irish history courses my mission is to locate a link of the Costigan video collection list,and getting the link out there….This perhaps will encourage interested parties to see merit in the transfer of some of these vidoes to DVD for availablity to everyone…A question: Who really owns the rights to these videos?

  4. James R. Harstad says:

    I am a former student of Professor Costigan, having taken his English history course in the early 1960′s. Like others, I admired him immensely and would love to see recorded lectures, debates, or other connections to this remarkable man. Many thanks.

  5. Denby says:

    I too would like to hear Professor Costigan again. Anyone have any luck locating recordings?

  6. Rodger Schlickeisen says:

    I too am wondering about the Costigan lectures and whether any are available. The email train suggests that a number of people have asked but no one ever answers their question. May I try again now?

  7. ken barclay says:

    When I was at the UW in the late 80′s, I found a trove of Costigan cassettes in the library’s Media Center. He was talking about the history of WW1 and WW2, and though that wasn’t a topic of particular interest to me … I listened to the entire 4-hour presentation with great absorption. I’ve never heard anyone so eloquent and erudite.

    Over the years I’ve sent a few emails to various UW addresses trying to find out the fate of these recordings but never received a response.

  8. Lynn Christensen says:

    My father was a UW graduate and when I was in middle school we listened to Prof Costigan lectures on long car rides. He was a spellbinding storyteller and I have fond memories of those rides. I never knew history could be so fascinating. I wish I could listen to his lectures again and share them with my children. I hope his tapes will be converted soon so we can all once again enjoy his wonderful lectures.

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