Since its inception in 1964 the Orr Forum has been Wilson College’s most widely-known and perhaps most prestigious academic event. Prior to the establishment of the Orr Forum, the College sponsored annually what was called “Devotional Week” with a series of chapel services, sermons, and a communion service.
During the 1962-1963 academic year Associate Professor of Bible and Religion Harry Buck and Professor Graham Jamieson, Chairman of the Department of The Bible and Religion, discussed the use of a fund established by Thomas J. Orr in honor of his parents Mary and William. The aim was to establish an endowed lecture series that would bring to campus outstanding thinkers in various aspects of religion studies. President Paul Swain Havens enthusiastically endorsed the plan, approving its implementation in 1964. The following year Professor Raymond Anderson joined the Department and quickly became an invaluable part of the Orr Forum personnel.
Topics addressed by the Orr Forum have reflected the wide and shifting interests in religion studies in America. The series began with Edward Jurji, Professor of Islamics and Comparative Religion, Princeton Theological Seminary, speaking on convergence and prejudice. Succeeding years have been devoted to such topics as bioethics; race relations; the relationship of church and state; the nexus between religion and environmental issues; the AIDS crisis; and contemporary Islam.