07 February, 2009

Dr. Ray L. Hart


Dr. Ray L. Hart

Ray L. Hart was born and reared on a ranch in the Panhandle of Texas. He was educated at (United Methodist) McMurry University, the University of Texas at Austin (Bachelor of Arts, 1949, triple major in Philosophy, English, German), Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology (Bachelor of Divinity, 1953), and Yale University (Ph.D. in Philosophical Theology, 1959). He has taught at (United Methodist) Drew University School of Theology, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, the University of Montana at Missoula (Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies), the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Boston University. He came to Boston University in 1989, where he served for a decade as Chairman of the Department of Religion (CAS) and Director of Graduate Studies in Theology and Religion. He has served on many university-wide committees, most recently the Trustee Scholarships Committee, and the Search Committee for the Dean of Marsh Chapel and Chaplain to the University. Over the course of the past forty seven years in five institutions he has been the mentor of well over one hundred Ph.D. students in Theology and Philosophy of Religion.

Dean Hart is often cited as one of the primary shapers of the study of religion and theology in America in the last third of the 20th century, especially through his long involvement in the American Academy of Religion (AAR). For a decade he was the chief Editor of The Journal of the American Academy of Religion; he conceived and executed the structure of the annual meeting (which now attracts an attendance of some 10,000) which has been in force since 1973. In 1984 he was elected President of AAR, after serving as that learned society’s first Delegate to The American Council of Learned Societies, and presided over the society’s 75th Anniversary (even now he is involved in planning the 100th anniversary for 2009). When he exited formal offices in AAR, its Board of Trustees established the “Ray L. Hart Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Study of Religion,” which is awarded annually.

Dr. Hart has been a consultant to many colleges, universities and seminaries to evaluate their programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels (e.g., University of Virginia, Florida State University system, California University System, Yale Divinity School, University of Chicago Divinity School, etc.). For a decade he was primary Consultant to the Chancellor and Board of Trustees of the State University of New York for the development of a statewide program in religious and humanistic studies.

Dean Hart is the author of the typical clutch of books, monographs, edited volumes, and articles. The most widely known of his books is Unfinished Man and the Imagination: Towards an Ontology and a Rhetoric of Revelation. Of that book he says “its only claim to fame is that it has remained in print for thirty six years, and counting.” He is presently preoccupied with writing a book on the doctrine or theory of God, but notes with a grimace “I’m unlikely to add a line until I work myself out of Deaning.”

The Reverend Dr. Hart has been an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church since 1952, and remains a member of the Northwest Texas Conference.

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