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More current alumni news

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.