Montana State University

Bozeman native Diana Eck to deliver Hausser Lecture Wednesday

February 3, 2003 -- Carol Schmidt

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Diana Eck, a Bozeman native and a prominent scholar of religious diversity in America, will present Montana State University's 24th Hausser Lecture in the Humanities at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5 in the Hager Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies. Her lecture will be followed by a public reception.

Eck, daughter of longtime state representative Dorothy Eck, and a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University's Divinity School, will be lecturing on "A New Religious America." Following her speech in Bozeman, she will travel to Helena to receive the Montana Governor's Humanities Award.

Since 1991 Eck has headed the Pluralism Project, a research team at Harvard exploring the new religious diversity of the United States. Funded by the Lilly Endowment, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, the project has documented the growing presence of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities in the U.S.

"We're fortunate to have Diana here," said Lynda Sexson, MSU religious studies professor. "Her work is used in classes here and she has won a number of prestigious awards for her work."

Eck's book, "Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras" won the 1994 Melcher Book Award of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the 1995 Louisville Grawemeyer Book Award in Religion, given for work that reflects a significant breakthrough in our understanding of religion. She has also written several other books including: "Banaras, City of Light," "Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India," and edited two books with colleagues. In 1994, Eck and the Pluralism Project published "World Religions in Boston, A Guide to Communities and Resources." The Pluralism Project's interactive CD-ROM, "On Common Ground: World Religions in America," a multimedia introduction to the world's religions, has won major awards from Media & Methods, EdPress, and Educom. Eck's most recent book, "A New Religious America: How a 'Christian Country' Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation" addresses the U.S.' challenges of a more complex religious landscape of the post-1965 period of renewed immigration.

Eck serves on Harvard's Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies as well as the Faculty of Divinity. She received her bachelor's degree in religion from Smith College, her master's in South Asian history from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and her doctorate in comparative study of religion from Harvard University. She currently serves as one of two Masters of Lowell House at Harvard.

In 1996 Eck was appointed to a State Department Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, a 20-member commission charged with advising the Secretary of State on enhancing and protecting religious freedom in the overall context of human rights. For her work, former U.S. President Bill Clinton awarded Eck the National Humanities Medal and she was also named to the National Endowment for the Humanities on American religious pluralism.

The Hausser Lecture Series was named for the late Harry Hausser, creator of the philosophy program at MSU. The purpose of the lecture series, ongoing since 1979, is to bring notable scholars, writers and artists to the MSU campus.

For more information about Eck's visit, contact the MSU Department of History and Philosophy, 994-4395.

Contact: Lynda Sexson (406) 994-5200 or Gordon Brittan 994-5208