Friday, November 10, 2006

Howard W. Hunter Chair in Mormon Studies

Howard W. Hunter Chair in Mormon Studies

Claremont Announces Search for First Chair in Mormon Studies

On Tuesday, October 24, Claremont Graduate University announced that
its Provost and Board of Trustees had approved the creation of the
Howard W. Hunter Chair in Mormon Studies at its School of Religion.
When the CGU Search Committee has completed its search within the next
few months, it will recommend a preeminent scholar to occupy the
Hunter Chair. This will be the first academic chair for graduate-level
study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints anywhere in
the world.

Since signing the endowment agreement with CGU six months ago, the
Howard W. Hunter Foundation has received substantial financial
commitments. In addition, the LDS Council at Claremont has committed
its own funds to ensure the incoming professor's first year salary.
Thus, CGU agreed to begin the search this year.

The Hunter Foundation's ultimate goal is to fund an entire Center for
Mormon Studies which will include not only the salary for the Chair,
but also a residence, special library resources, graduate fellowships,
research grants, conferences, invited lectures, publications, and
various outreach activities to engage with other faith traditions.
However, the most important and urgent goal, says Joseph Bentley,
chairman of the LDS Council at Claremont, is raising a large enough
endowment to establish and maintain the Chair.

After the Provost has formed a search committee and advertised the
position, in accord with usual University policy, the committee will
evaluate candidates, interview finalists and submit recommendations
for a scholar to fill the Chair. The University Provost will make the
final decision. Conceivably, the Howard W. Hunter Chair could be
filled by fall 2007.

The Mormon Studies program will be part of CGU's new approach to the
comparative study of religion. Through this approach, the university
seeks to "encourage dialogue between the faithful practitioners of a
religion and its scholarly observers, thereby fostering a dynamic
exchange between faith and scholarship," observed Robert Rees, a
member of the LDS Council at Claremont. In order to overcome "the old
battle between science and faith," says Dean Karen Torjesen of the
School of Religion, "we need to bring the faithful into conversation
with the academic; to bring the 'insider' into conversation with the

In 2002, Dean Torjesen visited Salt Lake City and Brigham Young
University to establish relationships with Church and University
leaders. The idea for an academic chair to honor the 14th LDS Church
President, Howard W. Hunter — a longtime resident of southern
California and former Church Historian — led to the founding of the
Hunter Foundation in early 2006. This past April, CGU and the Hunter
Foundation publicly signed a landmark endowment agreement which laid
the groundwork for establishing the Hunter Chair at Claremont.

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