“Giving and Philanthropy” Lecture Series with Dr. Erzsebet Fazekas

San Lorenzo distributing Alms
St. Laurence Distributing Alms, by Fra Angelico

The Albany Public Library will present a special lecture & discussion series this Fall on the topic of Giving & Philanthropy.

This discussion series will introduce participants to the key issues at the heart of charitable giving and philanthropy: motivations for giving, the selection of recipients and worthy causes, and the impact of giving on donors, recipients and society in general. Participants will read a variety of texts (literary and journalistic) and use visual media (photos and videos) to discuss the questions identified for each session, such as “What are the costs and rewards of giving?” and “Why do we give?” Participants will be encouraged to bring stories from their own lives and cases from the history of New York State to provide context for these difficult ethical and strategic decisions. The sessions will be interactive, open discussion will be favored over lectures. Sessions will be facilitated by Dr. Erzsebet Fazekas.

The program takes place on Tuesday evenings from 5:30 – 7pm at the Washington Ave Branch of the Albany Public Library.

This program is made possible with funds from Humanities New York. Humanities NY provides leadership and support across the state through grants, programs, networking and advocacy, encouraging critical thinking and cultural understanding in the public arena. Additional support is provided by the APL Foundation. 


Session 1 (October 17): The Act of Giving: Opportunities and Challenges
Maya Angelou: The Sweetness of Giving
Shel Silverstein: The Giving Tree (video)
Oscar Wilde: The Happy Prince (recommended)
Discussion Questions: How do we show love? What are the costs and rewards of giving? In what ways do you practice giving?

Session 2 (October 24): The Gift of Giving: Halo and Reciprocity
Pablo Neruda: The Lamb and the Pinecone
Anne Lamott: Giving
Marcel Mauss: The Gift (selections)
Discussion Questions: When you give, what do you expect in return? How does giving affect the giver and the recipient? What does good giving require? What strings may be attached to giving?

Session 3 (Nov 7): To Whom or For What To Give? Giving Traditions
Elizabeth Lynn and D. Susan Wisel: Four Traditions of
Anna Akhmatova: If All Who Have Begged Help
Video testimonies from selected donors
Discussion Questions: What are the strengths and weaknesses of each philanthropic tradition? What examples of each have you seen? Are there any other traditions not mentioned? Are there new traditions you have observed or would like to see practiced? What makes a worthy recipient? What causes are worth giving to?

Session 4 (Nov 14): What and How Much To Give? 
Ian Parker: The Gift
Mitch Albom: Tuesdays with Morrie (selected text)
Discussion Questions: What makes a good gift? Is money a good gift? Is human organ donation a (good) gift? What should limit our giving? Should the wealthy give more than those with less?

Session 5 (November 21): Why Give? Big Donors
Andrew Carnegie: The Gospel of Wealth
Select letters from the Giving Pledge
Discussion Questions: Why do today’s big donors give away at least half of their wealth before or upon their death? How do their motives differ from those of philanthropists a hundred years ago? Which of the four traditions do they pursue?

Session 6 (November 28): The Impact of Giving
Bertolt Brecht: A Bed For the Night
2013 Annual Letter from Bill Gates


  1. […] The program takes place on Tuesday evenings from 5:30 – 7pm at the Washington Ave Branch of the Albany Public Library, beginning October 17th. All lectures are free and open to the public. Registration is not required. Syllabus and more information here. […]

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