Record-Breaking Lecture

University of North Texas professor covered the complete history of Texas in 26 hours to set a record and raise money to support an archive on campus.

August 27, 2018
 
Andrew Torget

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, after with a talk that lasted 26 hours and included hundreds of pages of notes and well over 1,000 slides, Andrew Torget broke the world record for longest lecture.

The University of North Texas professor said it was his children’s idea to give the lecture, spanning the entirety of Texas history from prehistoric times to the modern day.

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to set a Guinness world record,” he said. “The immediate inspiration, though, was my own kids, who are eight and 10 years old. They came up with the idea of doing something like this.”

The possibility of breaking a world record was exciting, but Torget said the real reason he did it was to raise money for the Portal to Texas History, an online archive of rare, historical and primary materials from or about Texas history. The portal was created and is maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries. The lecture was streamed live on the portal’s website, and viewers were asked to donate online.

After gaining a little traction on social media, the lecture commenced at 9 a.m. Friday and reached an audience far beyond Torget’s classroom.

“I heard from people as far away as Ireland,” he said. “There was a pub in Ireland where they had a drinking game. Every time I said ‘populace,’ they took a shot.”

The history professor and his students broke the record at 9 a.m. Saturday, but by the time he ended the lecture a couple of hours later, Torget had raised close to $20,000 for the portal. He said staying awake and alert was, for the most part, surprisingly easy.

“When I got started, I felt really good. Then, about six or eight hours in, my throat started hurting on the right side, but it didn’t impede my ability to speak, just to drink water,” he said. “I think I was just really in the moment the entire time. I thought I would end up sitting a lot, but I ended up prowling across the stage, walking back and forth pretty much the entire time.”

Breaking a world record required participants to follow a few rules. Guinness World Records representatives were present to monitor the lecture. At least 10 students had to be present, they could not leave or sleep and they had to remain engaged and attentive throughout the talk. Cellphones were not allowed. Every hour, the group earned a five-minute break, which Torget said they would stack and then take 15-minute breaks every three hours, during which they eat, drink and use the bathroom.

He could have kept going, he said, but wanted to give his sleepy students a rest.

“As I was up there, I was watching them and their eyes, and they started to droop,” he said. “If they dropped out, they don’t get to be part of the record. It had to be the same students, that’s why it was so exhausting for them. They were there the entire time.”

A few students fell asleep or dropped out, but in the end about 35 students stuck it out. Even after ending, Torget didn’t go to sleep until 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“I can just keep on talking. I did not know before this how long I really could go. I didn’t know how long my voice would hold up, and how long I could focus and concentrate deeply on the subject matter,” he said. “It was a challenge, it was demanding, but at the same time, the thing I learned the most is that I really can keep going.”

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