History of the Department
The Department of Religious Studies was awarded departmental status in 1949 when Dr. Lauren Brubaker (second from left), the University chaplain, inaugurated one of the first programs in the country for the academic study of religion. For the first ten years, Brubaker was the sole faculty member. The undergraduate major was established in 1968 with the addition of Dr. Donald Jones (far right) to teach Biblical courses.
The Department extended its offerings with the hire of Dr. Harold French (far left) in 1972 to teach Asian religions. Over the years he added the psychology of religion, new religions in America, and other courses that widened the Department’s academic range. In 1974 Dr. Carl Evans (second from right) joined the faculty to offer courses in Old Testament and early Israelite history, and in that same year Dr. Kevin Lewis (center) arrived to teach in the area of religion and culture. In 1980 Dr. James Cutsinger (not pictured) was hired to teach Christian theology, ethics, and comparative religious thought.
In recent years, the Department has hired faculty with expertise in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and religions of the African diaspora. There are currently eight full-time professors whose research and teaching interests include, in addition to the traditions just mentioned, the psychology of religion, religion and literature, religion and ecology, women’s and gender studies, medieval historiography, theory and method in the study of religion, religion and the arts, meditation and transformative practices, and the philosophical expressions of the world’s religions.
The three earliest architects of the Department—Lauren Brubaker, Donald Jones, and Harold French— passed away between 2010 and 2014. The Department remembers their contributions and their individual, inimitable persons.