Legacy of Knowledge

Milton R. Konvitz Book Collection Established in France
Monday, May 22, 2017

The Milton R. Konvitz Book Collection, including nearly 2,200 books on law and philosophy, was inaugurated this spring on the campus of Sciences Po Reims in France.

The gift was made by his son, Josef W. Konvitz, A&S ’67, who remained in France after retiring from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, where he had been head of the regulatory policy and urban affairs divisions.

Milton Konvitz was a founding member of the ILR School faculty and a professor at the Cornell Law School.

Sciences Po Reims campus, dedicated in 2015, will soon serve 1,600 students with a concentration on European and American studies, and on Africa. The library where his books are held was built as part of a Jesuit seminary and is a 17th century historic landmark with the original interior.

It was built, Josef Konvitz said, when the philosophical and legal concepts were established to protect individual rights and limit the arbitrary power of the state – concepts that Milton Konvitz wove into his “American Ideals” course.

The course was taught by Konvitz to some 8,000 undergraduates at Cornell between 1948 and 1973.

Konvitz’s materials relating to “American Ideals” are held at Cornell University’s Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives in the ILR School. Recorded lectures are available here.

The new Konvitz collection, Josef Konvitz said in an email, “could just as easily be reshelved in the main library, with nothing to distinguish their origin than a small stamp on the title page “Fonds Konvitz.”

“Brought together as a collection, however, students will be provoked to make the kind of connections between authors and subjects as different as Erasmus and Jefferson that my father himself made.”

Those who want to learn about Milton Konvitz’s teaching can find a lot of information in the Kheel Center, “But, students and professors at Sciences Po, seeing his collection of books, will encounter the man.”

“From that, they may be drawn to the subjects he cared about and commit themselves to using the knowledge they acquire to the betterment of society.”

“Milton Konvitz did not intend to make a book collection any more than he wanted to have a memorial. But, that is, in part what his book collection has become,” his son said.