Thursday, October 11, 2012

The "Mormon Moment" Continues at the University of Virginia

The New York Times is reporting that the University of Virginia is establishing the Richard L. Bushman Chair of Mormon Studies:

The University of Virginia has announced a new endowed chair in Mormon studies, making it the first university in the East to have such a position. The chair will be named for Richard Lyman Bushman, a distinguished historian of early America who taught for many years at Columbia University and more recently directed the Mormon studies program at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., which in 2008 became the first secular institution outside Utah to offer such a program.

Mr. Bushman, the author of “Rough Stone Rolling,” a biography of Joseph Smith, said in a statement that the Virginia chair represented a maturation of Mormon studies, which has recently begun to attract scholars from across disciplines, including many with no personal connection to the church. (He is a Mormon.) “Now we will have a center for study here in the East, where the Mormon movement had its genesis,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for those of us who care deeply about researching the sources of human behavior, motivation, commitment, relationships and expression.”

The chair, whose occupant has yet to be selected, is supported by a $3 million endowment from anonymous donors, and will be in the Department of Religious Studies. That department, which has no affiliation with any church or theological seminary, is the largest of its kind at any public university, according to a university statement.

Not to sound too envious, but how about a chair in Evangelical Studies?  Why not?


Christopher said...

A chair in Evangelical Studies would be great! The difficulty with any sort of chair, though, is finding and securing the funding. UVA very smartly tapped into the community of East Coast Mormon money, but even then it took awhile. I first heard rumors of this nearly three years ago, so it's been in the making (and in the fundraising) for awhile.

I'll also say that I think this approach--that is, establishing a chair in Mormon studies--is the smart one; as opposed to trying and create a Mormon studies program, like a couple of other schools have done.

John Fea said...

Good insights, Chris. Unfortunately, evangelicals do not tend to fund intellectual endeavors like this. They would rather put their money into evangelism or missions.

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

David Hempton holds the McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies. That's a start.