Enhancing its strong Program in African-American Studies , Princeton University is planning to appoint to the faculty Cornel West, the acclaimed teacher and scholar of religion, and Eddie S. Glaude Jr., a Bowdoin College professor known for his work in African-American religious studies. The appointments require the approval of Princeton's Board of Trustees, which meets Saturday, and would take effect July 1.
Cornel West, who is known for his intellectual contributions in the study of religion and for challenging those both inside and outside of academia to think about critical issues of race, was a popular and dedicated teacher during his previous tenure at Princeton, and we are pleased that he has decided to return," said Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman. "He will be joined by Eddie Glaude, who studied with Professor West as a Princeton graduate student and has since built his own reputation as a gifted scholar and teacher."
West, the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor at Harvard, will return to Princeton as the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion. He was a member of Princeton's faculty from 1988 through 1994, serving as professor of religion and director of the Program in African-American Studies.
A prolific writer and widely cited scholar, West focuses on the area where religious thought, social theory and pragmatic philosophy meet. His most influential scholarly work, "The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism," is a history of pragmatism from Emerson to the present. "It would be accurate to say that he has reshaped religious studies in such a way that his area of interest is now seen as central to the field," said Jeffrey Stout, a professor of religion at Princeton.
Through his writings, West has proven himself to be one of the most penetrating and wide-ranging critics of contemporary religious thought, Stout said, adding that West "defends a position that combines pragmatism and Christian thought in a way that is reminiscent of the young Reinhold Niebuhr."
West's book "Race Matters," which sold nearly 400,000 copies and influenced a national dialogue on race, brought him widespread attention and honors outside the field of religious studies. His recent work includes two important books he co-authored on public policy issues: "The Future of American Progressivism" and "The War Against Parents."
"I am excited to return to the greatest center for humanistic studies in the country," West said. "I look forward to being a part of President Tilghman's vision that promotes high quality intellectual conversation mediated with respect."
Writer Toni Morrison, the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, said: "Depth, precision and fervor have always characterized Cornel West's work as well as his teaching. Princeton is extremely fortunate in securing him -- again."
West graduated from Harvard University magna cum laude, and earned his Ph.D. degree in philosophy at Princeton in 1980. In 1996, he was awarded the James Madison Medal, the highest honor Princeton bestows on graduate alumni.
At Harvard, West has taught introductory through advanced courses, and his "Introduction to Afro-American Studies" class was the second most popular course at the university. In addition, West has been on the faculty at Union Theological Seminary and Yale University, and has served as a visiting professor at numerous other colleges and universities. In all his appointments, he has been recognized for his commitment to teaching and his dedication to both undergraduate and graduate students.
"The Department of Religion is delighted to welcome back Cornel West," said Professor Martha Himmelfarb, chair of the department. "During his years here, he brought extraordinary energy to his undergraduate teaching, and he helped to attract and train an exceptional group of graduate students. We very much look forward to his return, which will enrich the department in so many ways."
West is "certain to make a fine contribution to the intellectual life of the Program in African-American Studies," said Professor Colin Palmer, that program's acting director. "I look forward to working with him on many projects that will enhance the study of the peoples of the African Diaspora on this campus."
Another faculty member joining the Department of Religion is Eddie Glaude , who was appointed associate professor. Glaude, now associate professor of religion and Africana studies at Bowdoin College, is the author of "Exodus! Religion, Race, and Nation in Early 19th Century Black America," a finalist for the Society of Historians of the Early Republic first book prize. He edited "Is It Nation Time? Contemporary Essays on Black Power and Black Nationalism," and is the co-editor, with West, of the forthcoming volume "African American Religious Studies: An Anthology."
"Eddie Glaude is among the most interesting members of a new generation of scholars in the study of American religious life and thought. He's a teacher of extraordinary energy and imagination and a person of strong and thoughtful convictions," said Charles Beitz, a Princeton politics professor who, as dean for academic affairs at Bowdoin, recruited Glaude there. "He was a great contributor to the Bowdoin faculty in every important dimension, and we're very lucky to have attracted him to Princeton," Beitz said.
Glaude is a 1989 graduate of Morehouse College, with a bachelor's degree in political science. He has a master's degree in African-American studies from Temple University. At Princeton, he earned a master's degree and doctorate in religion.
"I am very excited about my appointment to the faculty at Princeton University," Glaude said. "I am convinced that something really special is happening at the institution, and I look forward to being a part of it."
Valerie Smith, professor of English and director of the African-American studies program, noted that West and Glaude "are at different stages in their careers, but both are distinguished and influential scholars of African-American religious, philosophical and political thought."
"As teachers and as scholars they will add immeasurably to the Program in African-American Studies, the Department of Religion, and the life of the University as a whole," said Smith, who is on leave from Princeton this semester.
Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601