Honoring Bill McLester (1936-2010)

The University of North Carolina and our department lost a very good friend last month with the passing of William D. McLester. Bill McLester was born October 18, 1936 in Lumberton, NC, son of the late James Dumas and Pattie Price McLester. He graduated from the UNC School of Medicine in 1965 and received his Doctorate of Philosophy in experimental pathology from UNC in 1967. After serving his country in the US Army in Korea, Bill devoted several years to research at UNC, practiced Pathology in Fayetteville, then attended the Medical College of Virginia with a Residency in Ophthalmology and returned to Fayetteville to practice until his retirement in 1999.

We will remember Bill best as a devoted father, grandfather, brother, and uncle, a man of wide ranging interests and intellectual curiosity, and a devoted supporter of UNC. Several years ago Bill discovered an interest in Religious Studies, and set out to provide support for faculty research in the department. Although he had not taken courses in the field during his time at UNC, he saw it as a way to help a smaller department that did not have the support of endowments held by larger units. He knew he could make a difference here, and he did. Through the establishment of the William D. McLester Fund for Faculty Excellence, our faculty have conducted fieldwork, purchased equipment vital to their research, attended conferences, and published important scholarship in a wide range of areas. Bill never wanted to occupy the spotlight for his contributions, but his unwavering and generous support made possible many things that otherwise would not have happened.

Just a year ago Bill moved to Chapel Hill so that he could be nearer to the intellectual vitality of the university he loved so much. It was our great pleasure to see more of him for occasional lunches and dinners, and to talk with him over coffee about his abiding interest in religious toleration and understanding. Bill really understood, in a deep and personal way, the importance of the teaching and research we do in Religious Studies. Always curious, engaged, and supportive, Bill’s legacy will continue to inspire and motivate us to reach out. His example reminds us of the transformative power of critical inquiry and intellectual engagement to reach learners in many places and stages of life.

Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp

AAR Dissertation Research Grant Winners

Congratulations to Kathleen Foody and Ilyse Morgenstein-Fuerst!

Excerpted from the American Academy of Religion’s press release:

The American Academy of Religion is pleased to announce the recipients of its inaugural International Dissertation Research Grants program: Kathleen Foody…and Ilyse Morgenstein-Fuerst.

The annual grants, designed to support AAR student members whose dissertation research requires them to travel outside of the country in which their school or university is located, are intended to help candidates complete their doctoral degrees by offsetting costs of travel, lodging, and other dissertation research-related expenses.

Foody, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, won the $5,000 grant for students working in any sub-discipline within religious studies. She will travel to Iran for research at the Iranian Institute of Philosophy.

Morgenstein-Fuerst, a Ph.D. candidate at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, won the Selva J. Raj Endowed International Dissertation Research Fellowship.  [She]  receives $2,500 and will travel to London to research an original manuscript held by the British Library.

The grants are awarded on a competitive basis by a panel of senior AAR members selected by the AAR President.

Thanks and Best Wishes to Bennie Reynolds

Our gratitude and best wishes for future success go with Dr. Bennie H. Reynolds III as he leaves the department for Jackson, Mississippi. Bennie has served UNC’s Religious Studies Department as Lecturer in Hebrew Bible since fall 2008. He will goes on to act as Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Millsaps College.

We thank Bennie for all his outstanding service to the department and wish him luck in his future endeavors.

Welcome New Faculty Members!

This fall semester, the Religious Studies Department welcomes its newest members, Dr. David Lambert and Dr. Jacob Stromberg.

David Lambert joins the department as Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible. David comes to UNC from the University of Texas at Austin, where he served as Assistant Professor in their department of Religious Studies since fall 2009. He has previously acted as Visiting Assistant Professor at Emory University’s Department of Religion and Institute for Jewish Studies. David was also a Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Post-Doctoral Fellow at Yale University from 2004 to 2007. His book, Before Repentance: How We Read Repentance into the Bible, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.

Jacob Stromberg will serve as Lecturer in Biblical Hebrew.  He holds a D. Phil. from Oxford University and has taught Hebrew Bible and language at Oxford as well as at Duke Divinity School.  Jacob is the author of Isaiah After Exile: The Author of Third Isaiah as Reader and Redactor of the Book, forthcoming in December 2010 from Oxford University Press.

Welcome, David and Jacob!