Courtesy of Cornell University

Bill Alberta M.S. '77, middle, is the next speaker in the Soup and Hope series. He founded the Cornell Elves Program, which provides new clothing, toys and blankets to local children.

January 31, 2019

Soup and Hope Warms Up Winter Days with Diverse Speaker Series

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Amidst the bone-chilling cold, the annual Soup & Hope speaker series will return to campus with hopes to connect the Cornell community with stories and hot soup.

Organized by Cornell United Religious Work, the speaker series invites people to listen to personal stories that touch “on the universal experience of being human” while enjoying soup and bread provided by Cornell Dining.

The series aims to have diverse speakers who address “different aspects of hope,” according to Jennifer Austin, health communications specialist for Cornell Health, who has been a member of the planning committee since the series kicked off in 2008.

“Soup & Hope talks call upon a different strength,” Austin told The Sun in an email. “They focus on the ability for someone to speak openly about the ways in which they have personally wrestled with and sought meaning from the struggles and challenges of life.”

For the next three months, community members will gather at Sage Chapel each Thursday for lunch at noon. The series kicked off on Jan. 17 with a talk from Ithaca College president Shirley Collado, in which she urged attendees to be a good model for future generations to follow according to a University press release.

According to Austin, although the series is held at Sage Chapel, attendees and speakers are not necessarily religious and present the community with a wide array of perspectives.

“The talks reflect very diverse personal, cultural, spiritual, political, and philosophical beliefs and experiences,” Austin said.

More than 50 speakers have shared their stories at Sage Chapel over the last 11 years. Speakers are typically a mix of Cornell students, staff, faculty, alumni and retirees, Austin said. Past speakers have included Susan Murphy ’73, who served as the vice president for student and academic services at Cornell, and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09.

The next talk will be given by Bill Alberta M.S. ’77, former career services counselor at Cornell. In 2013, he was honored with the George Peter Award for Dedicated Service for his dedication to Cornell and decades of service to the University. 

Alberta also founded the Cornell Elves Program in 1989, which provides new clothing, toys, warm blankets for local children. The program grew to support of 900 children annually by 2013.

Other speakers throughout the 2019 series will include Angela Winfield J.D. ’08, associate vice president for inclusion and workforce diversity and Prof. Riché Richardson, Africana studies.

“At the core of Soup & Hope is the belief that everyone has a story to tell; a story rooted in personal experience that, when shared, may help or inspire others,” Austin said.

Attendance is free and the series takes place every other Thursday at noon through March 28.