John Holt

John C. Holt Named Alumnus of the Year 2007


The Board of Trustees of the Baptist Theological Union has named John C. Holt, Ph.D. 1977 (History of Religions) the Divinity School's Alumnus of the Year for 2007.

Holt is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of the Humanities in Religion and Asian Studies at Bowdoin College, where he has taught since 1978, focusing on courses about Asian religious traditions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as courses on theoretical approaches to the study of religion.

His publications include Discipline: the Canonical Buddhism of the Vinayapitaka (Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981), A Guide to the Buddhist Religion (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1981), Buddha in the Crown (NY: Oxford U. Press, 1991) for which he was awarded an American Academic Book Award for Excellence in 1992, The Anagatavamsa Desana (Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993), and The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka (NY: Oxford U. Press, 1996). He has also edited a collection of essays titled Constituting Communities: Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia (SUNY Press). His most recent book, The Buddhist Visnu (NY: Columbia University Press, 2005), is a groundbreaking study analyzing the assimilation and transformation of the Hindu cult of Visnu by the Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka, wherein Holt argues that political agendas and social forces, as much as doctrinal concerns, have shaped the shifting patterns of the veneration of Visnu in Sri Lanka.

In 1982, he organized and founded the Inter-collegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program for a consortium of private liberal arts colleges, and in 1986 he became the first chair of Bowdoin's Asian Studies Program.

Holt's numerous research awards include three fellowships from the National Endowment of the Humanities, two senior fellowships from the Fulbright Program, as well as other national research awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and the Asian Cultural Council. He has been an editor of Religious Studies Review and was elected as a fellow to the American Society for the Study of Religion in 1995. He has been Visiting Professor of History and Comparative Religion at the University of Peradeniya three times (1984, 1989 and 1999) a Visiting Reader at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (1994), and the Visiting Numata Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Calgary (2000). In 2002, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Peradeniya for his contributions to Sri Lankan and Buddhist Studies.

Holt will deliver his Alumnus of the Year address, "The Spirit(s) of the Place: Buddhism and the Religious Culture of Laos," Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007, at 4 pm in Swift Lecture Hall with a reception to follow.