The University of Chicago News Office
Feb. 5, 1998 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

The University of Chicago creates new center named for retiring professor Martin Marty

The University of Chicago established on Thursday, Feb. 5 a major new research institute for theology and religion named for retiring professor Martin Marty, widely considered the leading historian of Christianity.

The Martin E. Marty Center will study religion’s role in public life and culture. Marty Center scholars will focus on communicating research conducted at the University’s Divinity School to the public. The Divinity School is ranked by the National Research Council as the nation’s top graduate program in religion.

The center will receive $1 million over five years from the Lily Endowment, Inc.

“Through the Marty Center,” said Divinity School Dean Clark Gilpin, “we intend to educate scholars who understand the rich diversity of the world’s religious traditions and who can effectively communicate that understanding to citizens, religious leaders and professionals in other fields.

“Martin Marty is an historian whose scholarship illuminates issues of broad human importance, concerns itself with the religious health of civil society, and is free from jargon and accessible to the wider public. It is this kind of scholarship that the Marty Center is designed to foster,” Gilpin said.

The Marty Center’s creation was announced Thursday, Feb. 5, at an evening ceremony--and 70th birthday party--in Marty’s honor. The ceremony at the Chicago Historical Society was hosted by journalist Bill Moyers and television producer Norman Lear and attended by over 500 guests, including such prominent Chicagoans as Mayor Richard Daley and Cardinal Francis George.

Marty Center research will range broadly across religion’s relationships to politics, science and the arts. The center will address broad themes of perennial human significance, such as the problem of human suffering, as well as more immediate issues on the American civic agenda, such as religion’s role in politics or health care.

When designing new research projects, scholars at the Marty Center will actively consult with religious, civic and professional groups in order to bring opinion makers into direct contact with scholars on the leading edge of research in religion.

By also involving graduate students in their research projects, Marty Center scholars will challenge them at the beginning of their careers to think of themselves as public intellectuals, engaged in research that will explain to the public the role that religion plays--for good and sometimes for ill--in world cultures.

One of the first Marty Center projects will be a conference on black theology held April 2 through April 5 at the University of Chicago. The conference coincides with the 30th anniversary of the landmark publication of James Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power and includes such speakers as Harvard’s Cornel West, Yale’s Stephen Carter, Chicago’s David Tracy and James Cone himself. For more information on the conference, call Jennifer Vanasco at (773) 702-4195.

MARTIN E. MARTY is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Modern Christianity at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. One of America’s foremost theologians and religious historians and the author of more than 45 books, Marty was one of the first 10 recipients of the National Humanities Medal bestowed by President Bill Clinton in 1997. He is the director of the Public Religion Project Linking Religion and American Public Life--funded by Pew Charitable Trusts--the senior editor of the weekly Christian Century and the editor of the newsletter Context. His most recent book is Under God, Indivisible, Volume III of his Modern American Religion series published by the University of Chicago Press.

Marty was Project Director for the recently completed five-year Fundamentalism Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which studied comparative fundamentalist religious movements around the world. He is a fellow of the two oldest scholarly societies of the United States, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which awarded him its medal in 1995, and the American Philosophical Society. He is past president of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society of Church History and the American Catholic Historical Association. In 1972 he won the National Book Award for Righteous Empire. Marty received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1956.
Last modified at 10:01 AM CST on Monday, March 25, 2002.

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