John Kaag to deliver 2018 Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecture on Jan. 29

January 09, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — John Kaag, a Penn State Schreyer Honors College alumnus, philosophy professor and author, will present “Morality in an Age of Hubris: What Matters Most and Why,” as part of the Schreyer Honors College’s 23rd annual Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, in the Palmer Lipcon Auditorium, Palmer Museum of Art.

The event is free and open to the public, although attendees are required to RSVP, as seating is limited. Free tickets are available online at A reception begins at 6 p.m., and guests are invited to take tours of the museum prior to the start of the program. Immediately following the lecture, Kaag will sign copies of his novel, “American Philosophy: A Love Story,” which will be available for sale.

The Luchinsky Memorial Lecture Series was endowed by family and friends to honor the memory of Mark Luchinsky through the support of a speaker who exemplifies intellectual honesty, personal integrity, and joy in learning. The 23rd annual event is sponsored by the Schreyer Honors College, the Presidential Leadership Academy, the Schreyer Honors College Student Council, and the Rock Ethics Institute.

Kaag, who said he became “hooked” on philosophy after taking two classes at Penn State, began to write for a broader audience after receiving tenure at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Op-ed pieces in major newspapers led to his work on “American Philosophy: A Love Story,” which Kaag calls a “cross between memoir and intellectual history.”

“Philosophy at its best is to help us work through the difficult business of living,” Kaag said. “I think that was a very ancient idea when it came to philosophy and one that has been lost in the 20th century, and I wanted to try to help bring it back.”

Kaag believes it can be difficult for young people, college students in particular, to focus on intrinsic values rather than the practicalities of life. He hopes to convey two messages to them during the lecture.

“The first is that it’s up to them to make their lives worth living, to determine what human worth and human meaning are about, and whether at the end of their lives, if their lives had moral value or ethical value,” he said. “And that seems like a very big responsibility but at the same time, the second message that I want to give them is that they can do it.”

Luchinsky was a Schreyer Scholar and biochemistry major who died in 1995 at the age of 20. A native of Pittsburgh who graduated first in his class from Thomas Jefferson High School, he was a member of the Penn State Golden Key Society and the Alpha Epsilon Delta Premedical Honor Society. Known for his intellectual honesty and integrity, Luchinsky enjoyed the study of all subjects and loved the classics, sports, poetry, history and geography.

Past Luchinsky lecturers have included Wendy Kopp, founder and president of Teach for America; Sean Misko, special adviser to the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Schreyer Scholar alumna Mary Beth Long, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense. Additional information about the Mark Luchinsky Lecture and a list of previous speakers is available at

The Schreyer Honors College, regarded as one of the nation’s top programs of its kind, promotes achieving academic excellence with integrity, building a global perspective, and creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first or second year of enrollment, are a diverse and motivated group of more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth campuses. The College strives to educate men and women who will have an important and ethical influence in the world, to improve educational practice, and to continue to be recognized as a leading force in honors education nationwide.

For additional information about the event, contact Donna L. Meyer, director of student programs, at 814-863-2636 or

  • Penn State alumnus and author John Kaag

    John Kaag will hold a conversation titled "Morality in an Age of Hubris: What Matters Most and Why" during the 23rd annual Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecture Series on Jan. 29 in Palmer Lipcon Auditorium.

    IMAGE: Photo provided by John Kaag
Last Updated January 09, 2018