Bushman to Claremont

September 6, 2007 | 30 comments
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Claremont Graduate University has announced:

Professor Richard Bushman has been appointed as the Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies. Professor Bushman was Governor Morris Professor of History at Columbia University, where he is currently emeritus. He has taught at Boston University, Harvard, Brown, University of Delaware and Brigham Young University. Over the course of his career he has published 11 books, receiving a Bancroft and Phi Alpha Theta prizes as well as the Evans biography awards. His scholarship ranges over the social and cultural history of early America, the political history of colonial New England, American religious history and the history of the Mormon Church. The list of fellowships that he has received is extensive; among them are a Guggenheim Fellowship, Huntington Fellowship, National Humanities Center Fellowship and National Endowment for Humanities Fellowship. For the academic year 2007-2008 will hold a Huntington Library fellowship and be in residence in Pasadena. He will come to Claremont in the Fall of 2008.

I can certainly understand the attractions of winter in Pasadena rather than New York.

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30 Responses to Bushman to Claremont

  1. Ben Huff on September 6, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Yes!! Who better?

  2. Ardis Parshall on September 6, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Hurray! He has been doing so well lately with every other project he touches, and will set a high standard for later appointees to meet. Can’t imagine anybody better at this time.

  3. Mark B. on September 6, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Rats! We in New York will miss having him around. What’s more, Riverside Drive has cleaner air than Pasadena.

  4. Margaret Young on September 6, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Isn’t it cool that a college in California has Mormon Studies? We’ve been trying to get something like that started at the U of U for years. I’m a bit out of the loop, but I don’t think it ever launched. What other universities or colleges (besides those associated with BYU) have Mormon Studies?

  5. Ben H on September 6, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    And Bushman is not just an accomplished scholar; he also thinks in terms of programs, ways to cultivate better scholarship and especially better young scholars. That is really what we need, not just a nice cushy endowed chair somewhere but a program, and this may allow him to raise the bar in that regard as well. It is a bit unusual and tricky to have an endowed chair when the larger field is not well established, don’t you think? But Richard is the kind to do some of the establishing.

    I’m really glad they managed to land someone of this stature to establish the standing of the chair as well. There are lots of competent scholars working on Mormonism, but an endowed chair calls for more than competence. Richard is more than sufficient.

    Margaret, do you think part of the reason why the U has been reluctant is that the field is just not well established in the first place? I mean, I think what Claremont did here was extremely gutsy (or to use another word, ‘risky’) because the pool of chair-grade scholars is not deep. Even fifteen years from now when Richard is finally ready to slow down a little (grin), how many people of that quality will be around? Mormons seem to want to establish chairs so that the field will get more attention and more credibility. But is that the way it usually works?

  6. Margaret Young on September 6, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Did Mormons work to establish the chair? Or did Claremont come up with the idea on its own? Is it endowed by some foundation from Howard W. Hunter?

    I wrote a letter of recommendation for someone else to get the chair, and that person is a FINE scholar. USU also has the Leonard Arrington Chair (isn’t that for Mormon Studies), which Phil Barlow recently assumed.

  7. Ben Huff on September 6, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    I wasn’t suggesting there was nobody else fit to fill it, just that there aren’t many. When USU claimed Barlow, they took a big bite out of the pool. Bushman of course already held a named chair position at no less than Columbia. Terryl Givens holds one at U of R. Maybe I have an exaggerated sense of what a chair should mean, but I would think at any institution a person holding a named chair should be at least a couple of notches more impressive than the regular faculty, and at an elite place like Claremont that is a high bar.

  8. Margaret Young on September 6, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Ben–I hope I didn’t sound like I was accusing you of anything. I am genuinely curious about who initiated these various chairs. I’d really like to know more.

  9. Ben E on September 6, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    From my experience, most chairs are established in Mormon Studies simply by the fact that the LDS church is the most successful church established in the USA to date, and there is a great deal of curiosity about its roots. At almost all of the History symposiums and conferences my mother-in-law has attended for the past 4-5 years (she is working on her PhD), there has been at least one lecture or session dedicated to Joseph Smith or the origins of the LDS Church in America.

    That said, I think the chair position grows naturally out of the study of colonial and early Ameican history and the movements that have helped shape what America has become since.

  10. Nate Oman on September 6, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Margaret: The money for the chair at Claremont was raised by a group of Mormons in southern California. In essence, I understand that they had an agreement with Claremont that said that Claremont would host the chair if they would raise the money for the endowment, which they did.

  11. Margaret Young on September 6, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Thanks for that info, Nate.
    Ben E.: AREN’T YOU PROUD OF YOUR MOTHER!!! Good for her!

  12. mmiles on September 6, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Maragaret-
    If I’m not mistaken Claremont announced the new dept. of Mormon Studies and actively recruited Bushman. I believe USU has a program, and that Wyoming fairly recently announced a program.

  13. Margaret Young on September 6, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Other scholars of Mormonism were encouraged to apply as well. Not all were LDS. I wonder how much difference it made if they were not members.

  14. gst on September 6, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    Claremont’s not in Pasadena. It’s in, you know, Claremont.

  15. Ben on September 6, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    mmiles, it depends on what you mean by “program”. I don’t know of anywhere with a standing degree program, or even a minor, in Mormon Studies. UVSC/UVSU has some undergraduate courses in Mormon Studies. USU’s religious studies program does not currently list any courses specifically on Mormonism on its website, though with Barlow there now, I’m sure they soon will have some courses along those lines. There are people at the University of Wyoming working toward a Mormon Studies chair, as part of a broader development of the curriculum, and they have a lecture series on LDS.

  16. Bob on September 6, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    #5: It also gutsy of Dr. Bushman:
    ” Round Control to Major Tom
    Commencing countdown, engines on
    Check ignition and may God’s love be with you
    (spoken)
    Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff
    This is Ground Control to Major Tom
    You’ve really made the grade
    And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
    Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare”. Good luck Dr. Bushman,

  17. Mark B. on September 6, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    I think Claremont is part of Greater Pasadena. :-)

    Whatever, the air is still cleaner up on Riverside Drive!

  18. David Grua on September 6, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I believe that the initiative for this chair started with Claremont, but received funding from Latter-day Saints. The School of Religion at Claremont has established eight councils representing religious groups that aid the school in “studying religions in their relationship to each other and to understanding religions in terms of their interdependence, cultural exchange, and unique contributions to civilization.” One of these councils represents the Church, and includes local leaders. The School of Religion is working actively to raise money with these councils to establish endowed chairs. We just happened to raise the money more quickly, so that’s why we have the Hunter Chair (how many Zoroastrians are there to donate money these days?).

    http://www.cgu.edu/pages/1025.asp

  19. David Grua on September 6, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Also, this is only a three-year appointment. From what I understand, Bushman will only be in this position for the duration of his contract, and then they will start the search again. But of course not even Bushman knows for sure what he’ll do at that point. But assuming he’ll retire, that’s where Ben’s (#5) concern comes into play.

  20. MikeInWeHo on September 6, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    re: 9
    I suspect the Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and especially the Pentecostals might dispute that assertion.

    re: 18
    Claremont School of Religion seems to like the word vibrant.

    While I’m sure Mark B can produce EPA reports to the contrary, anybody who’s been to Pasadena can tell you it’s actually a gorgeous area. The LDS should have taken over the abandoned Ambassador College in Pasadena years ago when the curious Worldwide Church of God went Evangelical and split up after the death of Herbert W Armstrong (now there’s an interesting American religious story!).

  21. mmiles on September 6, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Ben,
    Thanks for the clarification–definately not a program in my book.

  22. Jack N on September 7, 2007 at 1:37 am

    Claremont is part of the Claremont colleges in Claremont, CA (near Pomona) about 30 miles east of Pasadena.

  23. Ben H on September 7, 2007 at 11:52 am

    David (#19), do you know if this is a three-year thing because they haven’t finished raising money? or perhaps because that is all Bushman is ready to commit to? Or is this a philosophical point of the chair, to rotate rather than being like a typical tenured position?

  24. LifeOnaPlate on September 7, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Congrats to Br. Bushman, indeed.

  25. Mark B. on September 7, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    MikeinWeHo: My personal experience with Southern California ended over 40 years ago, so most of the stuff I say I’m just making up. But, I was born in Pasadena, lived there for two years (until Caltech awarded a PhD to my dad), and then lived in LaCrescenta for six months in 1963 while my dad was engaged in rocket science at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (take that, Kolob!). I do have some vague recollections of some beautiful places over there–San Marino, anyone?

    On the other hand, I rode my bike past the Bushman’s home on Riverside Drive last Monday, while the prevailing west/northwest wind from across the Hudson kept the air pretty clean. And Riverside Drive is a beautiful a street as there is in New York.

  26. Gilgamesh on September 7, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Ben E. #9 “From my experience, most chairs are established in Mormon Studies simply by the fact that the LDS church is the most successful church established in the USA to date”

    This is not necessarily true. The Seventh-day Adventists passed us up in membership a few years back and they are 30 years younger than we are. The Pentecostal Movement has over 20 million adherants in the US alone and they started in the 1920’s.

    However, we are uniquely American whereas the other two faiths are more traditionally Christian.

  27. Costanza on September 7, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    It also depends on how one defines success.

  28. David Grua on September 7, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Ben H (#24) – From what I understand, it’s a combination of your first two suggestions. They haven’t finished raising money, and Bushman doesn’t want to commit to more than three years. Your third suggestion, that this is a philosophical decision to only have someone there for three years before hiring someone else, is possible but I haven’t heard anything about that specifically.

  29. Keith on September 8, 2007 at 2:55 am

    The chair came about because of the efforts of LDS folks (and particularly one student who was there at the time) and the School of Religion at Claremont itself (as David has said, wanting to have chairs in several areas: Islam, Eastern Christianity, etc.). The thinking of the school was that, given the status of Mormonism now, and the projected growth and influence, it won’t be long before many religious studies programs would have specialist on Mormonism. They wanted to be part of the discussion early on. There was a real effort on the part of the school to see that the chair be seen as legitimate, genuine, to both scholars and to Latter-day Saints in general (realizing that they’d never please everybody). There have been lots of discussions and negotiations. It was with some understandable trepidation, for instance, that the Church gave permission for the chair to carry President Hunters name. Looks like it’s finally become a reality.

    The final three candidates for the Chair were Richard Bushman, Kathleen Flake, and Grant Underwood. Any of these three would have been fine choices, but each would have given a different emphasis and brought different things to the table. As a student in the School of Religion (I’m still ABD) I got to give input (as did all students who wanted to) about who I thought would be the best candidate. Richard is probably a good one to start with. Perhaps the school may hope that there will be someone who can be long term for the chair, but I don’t think most will mind if it’s a rotating position every few years or so.

    This will be interesting to watch.

  30. Robert Briggs on September 18, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    The Hunter Foundation & LDS Council at Claremont have not yet reached the threshold stipulated by Claremont to establish the Hunter Chair, yet they have received substantial contributions and additional commitments to demonstrate their ability over time to fund a fully endowed chair. So Claremont extended the offer to Prof. Bushman as the Hunter Visiting Professor for an indefinite term.

    Prof. Bushman will start in fall 2008 but is currently in southern California and will have the next 12 months to develop the Mormon studies effort at Claremont. When the fund raising goals are achieved, the focus will shift from the Hunter Visiting Professor to the fully-endowed Hunter Chair. In the meantime, fund raising continues.

    If things go according to schedule the Claremont board of trustees will confirm all the latest arrangements in October and the official press releases will be announced.

    Did I mention that fund raising continues and the Foundation will be happy to accept your generous donations?! Thanks for spreading the word to those who share a commitment to establishing this here on the West Coast.