February 7, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 9

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    Marty Center has rich history

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    The Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion is named after Martin Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading historians and interpreters of religion. The author of more than 50 books and a professor at the University for 35 years, Marty played a key role in shaping the center that now bears his name.

    The idea for establishing a venue for the advanced study of religion at Chicago came from Joseph Kitagawa, Dean of the Divinity School from 1970 to 1980. Marty worked closely with Kitagawa to formulate the purposes of the center within the context of the Divinity School’s mission of teaching and graduate research. The Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion officially opened in October 1979, with Marty as its director. The center was renamed to honor Marty upon his retirement in 1998.

    Those who have served as the center’s director are some of the Divinity School’s most distinguished faculty: historian of Christianity Bernard McGinn (1983 to 1992), the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School; Buddhist studies expert Frank Reynolds (1992 to 2000), Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School; American Christianity scholar Clark Gilpin (2001 to 2004), the Margaret E. Burton Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School and the College; Hindu and Sanskrit scholar Wendy Doniger (2004 to 2007), the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School; and beginning this past summer, William Schweiker, the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics in the Divinity School.

    As the home for advanced religious study within the Divinity School, the Marty Center provides facilities, staff and financial support for research pursued by the Divinity School faculty, graduate students and affiliated scholars from around the world. One of its distinctive missions is to bring scholarly perspectives to bear on religious questions facing the wider public, while also encouraging scholars to situate their academic questions within a broader cultural frame of reference.

    To achieve this goal, the Marty Center offers a variety of forums for the exchange between scholars and the wider public. In addition to conferences, the center hosts public lectures and sponsors Religion and Culture Web, a monthly forum in which a scholar of religion comments on his or her research that relates to themes, problems and events in world cultures and contemporary life. The center also publishes Sightings, a twice-weekly e-mail, which reports on the role of religion in public life and is sent to more than 5,000 readers.  

    For information on any of the Marty Center’s events or publications, please visit: http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/.