The Meryl Norton Hearst endowed fund (known broadly as the Hearst Lecture Series) was established in 1988 by a donation to the university by James S. Hearst in honor of his late wife, Meryl Norton Hearst. At the time, the gift was the largest the university had ever received. James S. Hearst, a poet, served as a professor of creative writing at UNI from 1941-1975. He received the university's first honorary Doctorate of Letters degree. The funding is scheduled to rotate annually among the academic departments of the arts and humanities, within the UNI College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences.