The University of Virginia has announced a new endowed chair in Mormon studies, making it the first university in the East to have such a position. The chair will be named for Richard Lyman Bushman, a distinguished historian of early America who taught for many years at Columbia University and more recently directed the Mormon studies program at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., which in 2008 became the first secular institution outside Utah to offer such a program.
Mr. Bushman, the author of "Rough Stone Rolling," a biography of Joseph Smith, said in a statement that the Virginia chair represented a maturation of Mormon studies, which has recently begun to attract scholars from across disciplines, including many with no personal connection to the church. (He is a Mormon.) "Now we will have a center for study here in the East, where the Mormon movement had its genesis," he said. "It's an exciting time for those of us who care deeply about researching the sources of human behavior, motivation, commitment, relationships and expression."
The chair, whose occupant has yet to be selected, is supported by a $3 million endowment from anonymous donors, and will be in the Department of Religious Studies. That department, which has no affiliation with any church or theological seminary, is the largest of its kind at any public university, according to a university statement.