Daniel Overmyer

Daniel L. Overmyer Named Alumnus of the Year 2001


The Board of Trustees of the Baptist Theological Union has named Dr. Daniel L. Overmyer the Divinity School's Alumnus of the Year for 2001.

Daniel L. Overmyer is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Asian Studies and the Centre for Chinese Research at the University of British Columbia, and Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Arts at Shanghai Normal University. He earned his B.A. in 1957 from Westmar College in Le Mars, Iowa, with a major in Biology, and his B.D. in 1960 from Evangelical Theological Seminary in Naperville, Illinois. He went on to earn his M.A. in the History of Religions in 1966 and his Ph.D. in Chinese Religion in 1971 from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Dr. Overmyer began teaching in the Department of Religion at Oberlin College, Ohio, in 1970. After three years, he moved to the University of British Columbia. Since gaining tenure there in 1977, Dr. Overmyer has served as professor in U.B.C.'s Department of Asian Studies, offering courses on Chinese religion and philosophy to undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students. In addition to teaching, he has served the university in several administrative capacities, including chairing the Centre for Chinese Research at the Institute of Asian Research from 1991-92, heading the Department of Asian Studies from 1986-91, and heading the Department of Religious Studies from 1984-85. He was a visiting professor at Princeton University in 1983, the University of Heidelberg in 1993, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1996-98. His outstanding service as both teacher and administrator earned Dr. Overmyer a U.B.C. Killam Faculty Research Prize in 1986, election as a Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada in 1988, and a Killam Faculty Teaching Prize in 2000. He is also a member of the American Society of the Study of Religion.

Dr. Overmyer's research has focused on Chinese popular thought, religion, and culture; popular religious sects of the late traditional and modern periods and their texts; and local rituals and beliefs practiced in villages. He has published extensively in the form of books, articles, book reviews, and conference papers, offering important new ideas to scholarship in East Asian Studies. His first book, Folk Buddhist Religion: Dissenting Sects in Late Traditional China (Harvard, 1976), was awarded the American Council of Learned Societies Prize in 1979 for "the best first book written by an historian of religions in the last three years." In 1986, he published his second book, The Flying Phoenix: Aspects of Chinese Sectarianism in Taiwan, co-authored with David K. Jordan (Princeton, 1986), and an introductory textbook written for first-year university students, Religions of China: The World as a Living System (Harper & Row, 1986). More recently, he has published Precious Volumes: an Introduction to Chinese Sectarian Scriptures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Harvard, 1999). In addition to writing, Dr. Overmyer has served on the editorial board of China Review International, Journal of Chinese Religions, Contemporary Chinese Studies Series (U.B.C. Press), Minsu quyi (a journal of Chinese folk drama, literature, and religion), and Ching Feng. He was also the founding editor for the Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions from 1976-78, now the Journal of Chinese Religions, published annually at the University of Indiana.

Since his retirement in January, 2001, Dr. Overmyer has been working on a new book entitled Chinese Popular Religion in Late Traditional Times (E. J. Brill, forthcoming); he is also editing a conference volume, Ethnography in China Today: A Critical Assessment of Methods and Results (forthcoming in 2002), and a special issue of The China Quarterly, "Religion in China Today." While working on these and other projects, Dr. Overmyer will conduct research and teach two seminars at the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies of National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan, from February to July 2002. An international conference, titled "Religious Thought and Lived Religion in China: A Conference in Honour of Professor Daniel L. Overmyer on his Retirement," will be held in September 2002, at which twenty-two scholars from Germany, France, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Canada, and the U.S., will present papers.

Dr. Overmyer will deliver his Alumnus of the Year address on May 2, 2002, in Swift Lecture Hall.