Alumni News

Have news to share? Fill out our online form. We love to hear from you!

Kevin Schilbrack (PhD'95), is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Appalachian State University. Previously a visiting scholar at Harvard University, the University of Uppsala, and Vrije University Amsterdam, Schilbrack is the author of Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto (Blackwell 2014). He is presently writing on the relevance of embodied cognition and social ontology for understanding what religion is and how it works. He is the new book review editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

Charles A. Wilson (PhD'86) has published Inventing Christic Jesuses: Rules and Warrants for Theology, vol. 1 Method (2017) and vol. 2 Christological Foundations (2018) from  Cascade Books.

Alan L. Berger (MA'70) is Raddock Family Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust Studies and director of the Center for the Study of Values and Violence After Auschwitz at Florida Atlantic University. He is the editor of, and contributor to Elie Wiesel: Teacher, Mentor and Friend: Reflections by Judges of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity Ethics Essay Contest, published in November 2018 by Cascade Books.

Maynard Kaufman (MA'62, PhD'71) is Professor Emerritus at Western Michicgan University in the Department of Comparative Religion and in Religion and Environmental Studies. He has just published a memoir, From James Joyce to Organic Farming. This follows his book of 2017, The Organic Movement in Michigan. His books remind us that it is possible and urgent to regenerate our agricultural soils and to raise food without fossil fuels as we try to mitigate the hazards of climate change. 

Claudia D. Bergmann (PhD'03) successfully finished the process to receive the degree of Habilitation at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany). Her book that investigates early Jewish and biblical texts that imagine a ritual meal in the World to Come will be published by Kohlhammer in 2019.

Kenneth Atkinson (MDiv'94), a professor of History at the University of Northern Iowa, published The Hasmoneans and Their Neighbors: New Historical Reconstructions from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Classical Sources (Bloomsbury, 2018). The book examines the Hasmonean Dynasty which ruled ancient Palestine (152-63 BCE) in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Classical writings to show how it changed the fates of neighboring kingdoms and the Roman Republic.

Dennis Tamburello, O.F.M. ( PhD'90), received the Reverend Carlyle Adams Ecumenical and Interfaith Award from the Capital Area Council of Churches in Albany NY.

Werner G. Jeanrond (PhD'84) is the new chair of dogmatics in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. 

Alain Epp Weaver (MDiv'99, PhD'12) published Inhabiting the Land: Thinking Theologically about the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Cascade, 2018). In this introductory text, Epp Weaver examines what it means to inhabit the land of Palestine and Israel justly, paying particular attention to the theologies of sumud, or steadfastness, advanced by PalestinianChristian theologians.

Stephen C. Rowe (MTh'72, MA'74, PhD) is Professor of Philosophy and Liberal Studies at Grand Valley State University. He is actively engaged in intercultural dialogue and consultation on liberal education through several universities and institutions in China and the US. An award-winning teacher, his latest book is Two Americas: Liberal Education and the Crisis of Democracy (Process Century Press, 2018).

Patricia Cox Miller (MA ’72; PhD ’79) has published her latest book: In the Eye of the Animal: Zoological Imagination in Ancient Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).
T. L. Brink (MA'74, PhD'78) is Professor of Psychology at Crafton Hill College. He recently published How to Argue with an Atheist: How to win the argument without losing the person (MSI Press, July 2018).

Derek S. Jeffreys (PhD'98) is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, and as recently published a book on ethics and American jails.  It includes chapters on the Cook County Jail, where he spent time researching for the book, entitled America's Jails: The Search for Human Dignity in an Age of Mass Incarceration.

Andrew DeCort (MA'09, PhD'15) will have a monograph appear in September. It is entitled Bonhoeffer's New Beginning: Ethics After Devastation (Lanham, MD: Lexington/Fortress Academic, 2018).
Shannon Burkes Pinette (MA’91, PhD’97), age 49, passed on Sunday, May 16, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas after a long illness.  Shannon was born on August 24, 1968 in Augusta, Georgia.  She graduated from Sheridan High School, Sheridan Oregon, in 1986 and received her bachelor’s degree from Grinnell University in Iowa in 1990.  She studied at the Divinity School under the direction of John J. Collins and was his first PhD student at the University of Chicago. She taught in the Department of Religion at Florida State University from 1997-2004, achieving tenure there.  She was the author of Death in Qoheleth and Egyptian Biographies of the Late Period (1999) and God, Self, and Death: The Shape of Religious Transformation in the Second Temple Period (2003).  She decided to leave academia after meeting her future husband, Kevin Pinette.  She joined her husband when he was stationed at Langley AFB, Virginia and Sheppard AFB, Texas before he retired from the Air Force.  They settled into San Antonio in 2008.  She converted to Catholicism two months before her death, which served as a great comfort in her final days.  Shannon is survived by her husband, her mother, Ritchie Burkes, and her father, Glenn Burkes. 

Jerome A. Stone (MA'64, PhD'73) is Professor Emeritus at William Rainey Harper College and Affiliated Community Minister of the Unitarian Church of Evanston. His book Sacred Nature: The Environmental Potential of Religious Naturalism, was published in 2017 (Routledge). In 2018 he coedited, with Donald A. Crosby, The Routledge Handbook of Religious Naturalism

Sandhya Jha, MDiv'05, MPP'05, profiled in Faith and LeadershipA tiny congregation with a big building is resurrected as a center for peace.

Bruce Grelle (MA’81, PhD’93) is Professor in the Department of Comparative Religion and Humanities at California State University, Chico. He recently published Antonio Gramsci and the Question of Religion: Ideology, Ethics, and Hegemony (Routledge, 2017) and The Practices of Global Ethics: Historical Backgrounds, Current Issues and Future Prospects (co-author with F. Bird, S.B. Twiss, K.P. Pedersen, & C.A. Miller, Edinburgh University Press, 2016).

C. David Hein (MA'77) has resigned his professorship at Hood College (MD) to accept an offer to be a senior fellow at the George C. Marshall Foundation, in Lexington, VA. His many books include Noble Powell and the Episcopal Establishment in the Twentieth Century (U. of Illinois Press).  Prof. Hein also delivered a Legacy Series Lecture at the George C. Marshall
Foundation, Lexington, VA, on March 15, 2018, which can be viewed on YouTube.

Lubomir Martin Ondrasek (AMRS'05, the president and co-founder of Acta Sanctorum, a Chicago-based Christian non-profit that works for positive transformation in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe (presently focusing on Slovakia), has recently published his new book Krestanstvo, etika a verejný život [Christianity, Ethics, and Public Life]. The book consists of fifty commentaries that he wrote for Denník N and SME (prominent Slovak newspapers) in the last three years. The book was endorsed, among others, by Tomáš Halík, who won the 2014 Templeton Prize, and Martin Bútora, who served as the Slovak ambassador to the United States and is currently an advisor to Andrej Kiska, President of Slovakia.

Ted Peters (MA'70, PhD'73), is Professor of Systematic Theology and Ehtics at the Graduate Theological Union. In 2017 he published God in Cosmic History (Anselm Academic), which nests human history and natural history within cosmic history, and poses the question of transcendence. This book is the focus of "Author Meets Critics" including responses by Lowell Gustafson, Ann Milliken Pederson, Nancy Howell, George Murphy, and Franciso J. Ayala in the journal Science, Religion, and Culture 4:1 (Feb. 2018) 1-36.

 Ilsup Ahn (PhD'05) recently published Just Debt: Theology, Ethics, and Neoliberalism (Baylor University Press, 2017).

Maynard Kaufman (PhD71), who had volunteered in the organic farming movement especially since he retired from teaching Religion and Environmental Studies at Western Michigan University, has published a book, The Organic Movement in Michigan (2007). The publisher was Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance in Lansing, Michigan.

Dov Weiss (PhD'11) has been awarded the Nahum S. Sarna Memorial Award for scholarship from the Jewish Book Council for his book Pious Irreverence: Confronting God in Rabbinic Judaism (University of Pennsylvania Press).  Weiss is an Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was a Martin Marty Fellow in 2011 and was the Alan M. Stock Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Jewish Studies in 2012. Specializing in the history of Jewish biblical interpretation and rabbinic theology, recent articles include "Sins of the Parents in Rabbinic and Early Christian Literature" [Journal of Religion 97:1], “Divine Concessions in the Tanhuma Midrashim” [Harvard Theological Review (108:1)] and “The Sin of Protesting God in Rabbinic and Patristic Literature” [AJS Review   39:2]. 

George W. Shields (PhD'81) Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Environmental Studies and former University Distinguished Professor at Kentucky State University, has been appointed to the Comparative Humanities PhD Program faculty at the University of Louisville, where he also teaches in the Department of Philosophy. His paper entitled "Analytical Critiques of Whitehead's Metaphysics," co-authored with Leemon B. McHenry, was published in the Journal of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Fall 2016), also available from Cambridge University Press at (August 2016 issue). His “Review of Donald A. Crosby, Nature as Sacred Ground: A Metaphysics for Religious Naturalism,” appears in Process Studies, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2017). Also, his paper entitled “Neoclassical Deep Empiricism: On Hartshorne’s Relation to the Empirical Sciences” has been accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association-Pacific Division to be held in San Diego, CA, March 28 – 31, 2018. The paper is based, in part, on new research into Prof. Charles Hartshorne’s activities with the now disbanded University of Chicago X-Club (a selective association of natural scientists and philosophers) and Hartshorne’s close relationship with nuclear physicist Leo Szilard, an important member of the Manhattan Project who patented the idea of a nuclear reactor with Enrico Fermi.

Matthew R. Foster (MA'77, PhD'87), Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Molloy College, Long Island, New York, has recently published The Human Relationship to Nature: The Limit of Reason, the Basis of Value, and the Crisis of Environmental Ethics (Lexington Press, 2016). 

Rev. Richard Lawrence (MDiv) was recently awarded the "Moral Courage Award" and given the honor of being the keynote speaker at the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King memorial breakfast by San Diego's African-American clergy association. In addition, he introduced his book Light, Bright, Damn Near White at a public book signing on November 9th, 2017, at Christian Fellowship Congregational Church (San Diego). 

Rory Osborne (MA'75) recently retired from the University of California at Davis but is still maintaining a part-time private clinical practice. 

Robert M. Franklin (PhD'85) has been appointed James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at Candler School of Theology, Emory University and Senior Advisor to the President of Emory. He writes that "it was a delight to return to Swift Hall in 2016 to participate in the unveiling of the Benjamin E. Mays Portrait. Dr. Mays was a Chicago alumni (MA and PhD) and former President of Morehouse College. I am also proud of my son and alumnus, Rev. Julian DeShazier, who serves the University Christian Church and the local community."

B UnderwoodBeau Underwood (MDiv'10) has been invited to give the annual Founders Day Address at Eureka College. Rev Underwood is a 2006 Eureka College graduate and senior minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Jefferson City, Missouri. His address is titled “The Virtue of Vocation” and will emphasize how the liberal arts tradition is not just about teaching critical thinking or professional skills, as so often depicted today, but about training students in virtue so that in acquiring their education they might discover a sense of vocation. Underwood is currently working on a doctorate at the University of Missouri’s Truman School of Public Affairs. In addition to serving his congregation in Jefferson City, Rev. Underwood is the First Vice-Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for the 2017-2019 biennium and Board Chair for Higher Educational and Leadership Ministries for 2017-2018.

Eureka College was incorporated on Feb. 6, 1855 by an act of the Illinois Legislature. The founding date coincides with the birth date of the college’s most famous alumnus, Ronald Reagan, who graduated in 1932. The College was founded by members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is among 17 colleges and universities affiliated with the church.

Elizabeth PerezElizabeth Pérez (MA'97, PhD'10, History of Religions) has been awarded the 2017 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion for her first book, Religion in the Kitchen: Cooking, Talking, & the Making of Black Atlantic Traditions (New York University Press, 2016). Drawing on years of research in Chicago among African American practitioners of Lucumí--the transnational tradition popularly known as Santería--Pérez focuses on the behind-the-scenes ritual labor of the women and gay men responsible for feeding the gods. The Society for the Anthropology of Religion confers the Geertz Prize annually "to foster innovative scholarship, the integration of theory with ethnography, and the connection of the anthropology of religion to the larger world." Pérez is assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Julian DeShazier (MDiv'10) has been named one of Crain's Chicago Business "40 Under 40" class for 2017. The Senior Pastor of University Church of Chicago, Rev. DeShazier was noted for his work on the South Side adult trauma center, set to open at UChicago Medicine in May 2018.



Rev. Tabitha Isner, MDiv'09, is a dual degree graduate (she also holds an MPP from the Harris School of Public Policy). She has announced a pollitical campaign for Alabama's Second Congressional District. "So much of a representative's job is really about pastoral care - actively listening to constituents and validating the underlying anxieties and fears that motivate them. At a time when so many in society are feeling unheard, we need representatives that are able to demonstrate empathy and resist the drive toward tribalism. I think my ministerial training has prepared me well for that task," said Rev. Isner. Isner lives in Montgomery, AL, and currently works in the early childhood policy field. 





WBEZ WorldView

Three of our alumni – one of whom is also a faculty member – were recently interviewed on WBEZ Chicago's "Worldview" program on issues around The Enhancing Life Project.

Maria Antonaccio, AM'85, PhD'96, discusses her alternate theories of sustainability, and how they spill into modern discourse around climate change.

Michael Hogue, AM'00, PhD'05, has been researching ways of reclaiming the earth in a constructive, rather than destructive way. Listen to Prof. Hogue discuss his theory of resilient democracy.
William Schweiker, the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics, PhD'85), the principal investigator of the project, theorizes ways of making everybody’s lives better.

(L-R): Timothy Lee (PhD'96), Bryce E. Rich (PhD'17), and Brandon Cline (PhD'16) prepare for convocation at Brite Divinity School (Fort Worth, TX) where the three now serve.




Winnifred SullivanThe American Academy of Religion's Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion is pleased to announce Winnifred Fallers Sullivan (JD’76, PhD’93 and a former Divinity School Dean of Students) as the recipient of the 2017 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. Sullivan is professor of religious studies and affiliate professor of law at Indiana University Bloomington. She is widely known for her critical studies of American law and jurisprudence about religion. Her public scholarship on religion and her work as an expert witness have had an important impact in courtrooms, prisons, military units, and government offices from city halls to the State Department.



Teresa Hord OwensTeresa Hord Owens (MDiv'03), Dean of Students in the Divinity School, was elected  to serve as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. She is the first African-American to hold this post and the second woman to lead the denomination.

Hord Owens comes to the position in a time of renewed emphasis on the issues of race, particularly in the United States. Her election comes on the 50th anniversary of the Merger Agreement uniting the African-American and largely white branches of the American-born denomination. She is currently pastor of a predominately white congregation in the Chicago area.

“We need to stop demonizing differences as deficiencies,” Hord Owens says. “We should seek to understand, to work through our differences in priorities, opinions, methods, and goals. This will not be easy, but imagine what an example this will be for the world if we can bridge the gaps in politics, identity, geography and theology.” Read our full story. 

Jamil Khoury AMRS'92

Jamil Khoury (AMRS'92) has been selected by the Diversity Leadership Council to receive the 2017 Diversity Leadership Award for University of Chicago Alumni.


Khoury is Founding Artistic Director of Silk Road Rising which creates live theatre and online videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses.  A theatre producer, playwright, essayist, and filmmaker, Khoury’s work focus on Middle Eastern themes and questions of Diaspora. He is particularly interested in the intersections of culture, national identity, citizenship, and class. Khoury is the 2015 recipient of the Community Leader Award from the Association for Asian American Studies, the 2013 recipient of the Kathryn V. Lamkey Award from Actor’s Equity Association for promoting diversity and inclusion in theatre, the 2013 ChangeMaker Award from South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) for his pairing of artistic and civic processes in the development of his groundbreaking Mosque Alert initiative, and the 2010 recipient of the 3Arts Artist Award for Playwriting. In 2014, Silk Road Rising, under the leadership of Khoury and his husband, Malik Gillani, was inducted into Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame for “showcasing works that address themes relevant to Silk Road peoples and their Diaspora communities, including polycultural LGBT stories.” 
Silk Road Rising works to advance the creation of, and expand access to, the works of Asian American and Middle Eastern American artists and to deepen understanding of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures within the broader community. Providing resources and learning opportunities that allow individuals to explore, express and embrace a more global perspective, Silk Road Rising provides mentorship and professional opportunities to diverse artists, and partners with grass roots, community-based organizations.
"I have often been asked how a Master's degree in religious studies from The University of Chicago Divinity School applies to my work as an artistic director," says Khoury. "I am hard pressed to think of ways it doesn't.  In my work, I navigate text, representation, subjectivity, conflict, imagination, meaning, history, spirituality, identity, debate, and those endless quests for knowledge, truth, and justice. So I'd say the Divinity School provided me with tools and armour that enable me to perform this work with greater efficacy and integrity.  In fact I have often said that Swift Hall is embedded in the DNA of Silk Road Rising!"  

The University of Chicago's Diversity Leadership Council was appointed by President Robert J. Zimmer in 2007 to help ensure that the University’s relationships with its staff, surrounding neighborhoods, and business partners appropriately reflect the University’s commitment to diversity as part of its core mission. As part of its role, the Diversity Leadership Council recognizes annually a University of Chicago alumna/us who has provided leadership in advancing social justice and equity, furthering the University’s goal of achieving greater diversity across our community and society.

Mr. Khoury was recognized  on January 9th in Ida Noyes Hall. University President Robert J. Zimmer conferred the award, saying, "Jamil has worked tirelessly to challenge stereotypical narratives against Asian, Middle Eastern, and Muslim Americans. He has created opportunities for writers, artists, and performers of color to bring their stories and craft to the stage. As an alumnus of this university, his use of the arts to counter dominant narratives, to educate the community, and to promote inclusion and social justice for underrepresented groups exemplifies the values of the university and its commitment to diversity and inclusion."

  Also recognized were Rudy Nimocks (Diversity Leadership Staff Award) and Margaret Beale Spencer (Diversity    Leadership Faculty Award). 







photo credit: Malik Gillany, Silk Road Rising

Laurie Patton (MA'86, PhD'91, History of Religions) has been elected Vice President of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). The AAR, a learned society and professional association of teachers and research scholars, has about 9,000 members who teach in some 900 colleges, universities, seminaries, and schools in North America and abroad. The Academy is dedicated to furthering knowledge of religion and religious institutions in all their forms and manifestations. This is accomplished through Academy-wide and regional conferences and meetings, publications, programs, and membership services. Prof. Patton was the Divinity School's Alumna of the Year for 2015. President of Middlebury College, Dr. Patton is an accomplished scholar and the author or editor of nine books on South Asian history, culture, and religion. In addition, she has translated the classical Sanskrit text, the Bhagavad Gita, and has published two books of poetry. She has lectured widely on interfaith issues and religion and public life, and consulted with White House offices on faith-based initiatives and civic engagement. Dr. Patton is completing two further monographs—one on scholars in the public sphere and another on women, Sanskrit, and religious identity in postcolonial India.
Rebecca Wollenberg (AB'02, PhD'15) has been announced as the winner of the 2016 SBL–DeGruyter Prize for Biblical Studies and Reception History for her manuscript, “The People of the Book Without the Book: Jewish Ambivalence Towards the Biblical Text After the Rise of Christianity.”  Wollenberg is an assistant professor of Judaic Studies at the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan and a fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows. When she concludes her postdoctoral fellowship in 2018 she will continue at the University of Michigan as a tenure-track assistant professor of Judaic Studies with a specialization in Jewish biblical interpretation. The De Gruyter Prize for Biblical Studies and Reception History promotes the study of the reception history of the Bible and aims to highlight the broad impact of the Bible in a wide variety of historical contexts and cultural settings. 

Phyllis D. Airhart (MA'81; PhD'85) is the winner of the 2016 Book Prize from the CSSR/SCÉR (Canadian Society for the Study of Religion) for A Church with the Soul of a Nation: Making and Remaking the United Church of Canada. The annual award recognizes an outstanding monograph in the field of Religious Studies. Airhart is Professor of the History of Christianity at Emmanuel College in the University of Toronto and cross-appointed to the Department for the Study of Religion.

​Joann Maguire Robinson (PhD 1996) has been awarded the AAR Excellence in Teaching Award for 2016. The American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes the importance of teaching, and honors outstanding teaching in the field. Robinson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, will make remarks and engage questions and answers during the Special Topics Forum at this year's Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. 

R KeenRalph Keen (PhD'90) was named President-Elect of the American Society of Church History at the 2017 meeting in Denver. Ralph is professor of history, Schmitt Chair in Catholic Studies, and dean of the Honors College at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

John David Carlson (MA'99, PhD'05, Religious Ethics), with fellow investigators Kristin Grady Gilger and Anand Gopal, has been awarded a Luce/ACLS Grant in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs. They will use the grant funds to work on a project titled Religion, Journalism, and Democracy: Strengthening Vital Institutions of Civil Society, which brings together journalists and religion scholars to study how religious practitioners and organizations are part of the fabric of democratic culture. The Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs (RJIA) is an initiative designed to foster new connections between scholars and journalists covering international affairs. The program offers two interrelated awards: programming grants for universities and fellowships for scholars in the humanities and social sciences who study religion in international contexts. This program is made possible by the generous support of The Henry Luce Foundation.
Jerome Copulsky (MA’97, PhD’04, Theology) has been awarded an AAR-Luce Fellowship in Religion and International Affairs. His work focuses on modern Judaism, political theology, and religion/state issues. The fellowship will fund Dr. Copulsky to work in the Office of Religion and Global Affairs as a Franklin Fellow at the US Department of State. Most recently, he has served as Director of Judaic Studies and Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Goucher College.