John Mott was on the faculty of Silver Bay’s summer conferences as early as 1903 and was a frequent speaker through the 1920s.
A seemingly tireless individual, John Raleigh Mott (1865-1955) came to Cornell University from a small college in Iowa in 1885. As president of the Cornell Y.M.C.A., he increased the membership threefold and raised the money for a university Y.M.C.A. building. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1888. That autumn, he began 27 years as national secretary of the Intercollegiate Y.M.C.A. of the U.S.A. and Canada.
During this time, he led the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, presided at the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910, and chaired the International Missionary Council. He helped to organize the World’s Student Christian Federation in 1895 and as its general secretary went on a two-year tour, during which he organized student movements in India, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe. In 1912 and ’13, he toured the Far East, holding 21 missionary conferences in India, China, Japan, and Korea.
From 1915 to 1928, Mott was general-secretary of the International Committee of the Y.M.C.A. and from 1926 to 1937 president of the Y.M.C.A.’s World Committee. During World War I, when the Y.M.C.A. offered its services to President Wilson, Mott became general secretary of the National War Work Council. Through the Y.M.C.A., he kept up international contacts and helped to conduct relief work for prisoners of war.
Mott wrote 16 books; crossed the Atlantic more than 100 times and the Pacific 14 times. He received decorations from China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jerusalem, Poland, Portugal, Siam, Sweden, and the USA, plus honorary degrees from Brown, Edinburgh, Princeton, Toronto, Upper Iowa, and Yale universities.
Some considered him to be the most universally trusted Christian leader of his time. In 1946, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
But much of it might not have happened. In 1912, Mott and a colleague were offered free passage on an ocean liner by a White Star Line official who was interested in their work. But they declined the offer and took a more humble liner, the SS Lapland, passing on their chance to sail on the Titanic.