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When Sage Chapel was built, President A. D. White established a speaker series, rather than a permanent chaplaincy, to ensure student interest in weekly services and representation of a range of faiths. Thus, since the 1890s, local preachers have alternated with prestigious guests from across the country in the chapel's pulpit--among them rabbis, priests, and pastors. Each spring the undergraduate winner of a speaking competition delivers a sermon.

The chapel also has a place in Cornell's civil rights history. When Martin Luther King Sr. ("Daddy King") spoke here in the late sixties, students crowded the chapel and hung through the windows to hear his words. From the pulpit, speakers look toward a window given by the Class of '61 to honor James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and their classmate Michael Schwerner, murdered in Mississippi during the 1964 voter registration drives.