Barzun delivered [“The Place and the Price of Excellence”] before the third convocation of the Graduate School of Cornell University in December, 1958. The convocation was held in the Alice Statler Auditorium of the Cornell campus, the audience consisting of between five and six hundred graduate students and members of the faculty. Barzun was introduced by the Dean of the Graduate School, John W. McConnell. The program consisted simply of the Dean’s welcome to the new students and faculty and Barzun’s address.
Published in pamphlet form by Cornell University, the speech was widely distributed on campus. The impact was remarkable. For example, the undergraduate organizers of the Cornell United Religious Organizations Program chose Barzun’s speech as the basis of a panel discussion for incoming freshmen in the fall of 1960. One faculty member was so moved that he wrote: “I can think of no speech made here in the last half-dozen years that has received such continuing attention and restudy by the University community.”