By the 1970s Personalism of the Boston University, Harvard, and California varieties had all but disappeared from discussions in the American philosophical community. The only exceptions were the Personalistic Discussion Group meeting each year at the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division and the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. Tom Buford at Furman University, was confident teachers of philosophy across the United States were discussing in their classes themes close to the heart of Personalism. In 1983 at the APA in Baltimore, Maryland, Buford over lunch with Erazim Kohak, Boston University, discussed bringing Personalism back into the American philosophical community with a journal that Tom Buford would edit, publish, and distribute at Furman University. The Personalist Forum, named by Kohak, began publication in 1985. But, Buford wanted the conversation to include philosophers in Europe. He dreamed of an international meeting alternating between the United States and Europe and widening the discussion to include any area of philosophy that took persons seriously. But, how do that? A contact in Europe was the key.
In the Fall of 1987 Charles Conti of the University of Sussex visited a friend in Clemson, South Carolina. John Lavely, Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, encouraged Charles to contact Buford. They made arrangements for Conti to drop by Buford’s home in Greenville, a city close to Clemson. After the game Conti and Buford met; over a plate of tacos Buford shared his dream. They agreed informal discussions were taking place and that both a journal and an informal institutional setting was needed. Buford proposed a conference, Conti suggested his college at Oxford, Mansfield, and they agreed to hold it in the summer of 1989.
The next summer, 1988, Buford visited Conti at his home in Brighton, England to formulate a call for papers. By that time Conti had made arrangements with Mansfield College to hold the conference the following summer. The conception was to focus on and limit the scope to serious discussions of persons, whatever the philosophical tradition or framework. Within that broad umbrella personalists could discuss themes important to them and clarify, modify, and defend their thought in conversations with philosophers from other persuasions. The first call for papers expressed that conception. Buford and Conti agreed to call the meeting “Conference on Persons.” Buford handled the program, and Conti local arrangements.
The first Conference on Persons was held at Mansfield College, Oxford in the summer of 1989 with approximately 90 in attendance.
1989 Mansfield College, Oxford
1993 St Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana
1995 Oriel College, Oxford
1997 Charles University, Prague
1999 St John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico
2001 Gaming, Austria
2003 University of Memphis, Tennessee
2005 Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University, Warsaw
2007 Asheville, North Carolina
2009 University of Nottingham
2011 Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
2013 Lund University, Sweden
2015 Boston University, Massachusetts