Religious studies department to add endowed chair
Board set to approve $3 million endowed Mormon-focused professorship
The University is set to become the first institution on the east coast with an endowed chair for Mormon studies, Board of Visitors members indicated Monday.
Establishment of the $3 million endowed position will likely go before the Board in a February 2013 meeting, University spokesperson McGregor McCance said in an email. The chair will be named for Richard Lyman Bushman, a historian of American religion, who during his time at Claremont Graduate University established the first secular Mormon program outside of Utah.
“The chair will help to satisfy the widespread curiosity about Mormonism and it will help to advance the study of religion,” Bushman said. “Through investigation of Mormonism we can learn a great deal about the nature of American culture.”
The idea to add a chair in Mormon studies has been in the works since a 2009 internal review of the University’s religious studies department in which department members expressed interest in establishing the position.
Bushman said he helped raise funds for the endowment.
The funds the religious studies department and others raised are enough to cover the salary of a new professor who will research and teach in the field of Mormon studies, Religious Studies Prof. Kevin Hart said in an email. Hart, the former chair of the religious studies department, said the department is seeking an additional $2 million to cover graduate stipends and money for travel.
After the chair is established, a search committee comprised of religious studies professors and professors from others departments will form to find a qualified candidate for the position.
The successful candidate will be tasked with encouraging students to challenge their religious beliefs, as well as others’.
“We always learn more about our own beliefs when they come up against those of other faiths,” Bushman said.