Senior Scholar Award

Inaugural Boniuk Institute Senior Scholar Award

In 2024, the Boniuk Institute launched its inaugural Senior Scholar Award initiative. Each spring, the Boniuk Institute presents its Senior Scholar Award to a scholar or public intellectual who has made outstanding contributions to the public understanding of religion broadly as well as pluralism and tolerance. Annual award winners are invited to the Boniuk Institute where they participate in a variety of Institute programs as well as give a public lecture followed by a reception in their honor.

2024 Boniuk Institute Senior Scholar

Marla FrederickOn March 28, Harvard Divinity School Dean Marla F. Frederick visited the Boniuk Institute to receive the inaugural Senior Scholar Award. Frederick is the John Lord O'Brien Professor of Divinity and the fist woman to hold the deanship of HDS in its 207-year history. She was honored for her leadership in scholarship; her outstanding contributions to the public understanding of religion, pluralism, and religious tolerance; and her mentorship of the next generation of religion scholars. Boniuk Institute Director Elaine Howard Ecklund presented Frederick with the award, underscoring the importance of translating scholarship on religion to the larger public and praising Frederick's leadership in these efforts.

Frederick's time at the Boniuk Institute began by joining the Institute's Reading Religion Graduate Salon, where she discussed a wide range of topics, including the challenges facing religious communities today, the realities of the job market for religion scholars, them importance of interdisciplinary scholarship, and the role of HBCUs in building a multiracial, multireligious modern democracy. Following the Salon, she spend time meeting individually with students.

A dinner reception and the award ceremony followed, with remarks by Frederick, who said translating scholarship on religion to the larger public is more important than ever. "We live in a multiracial, and multireligious world," she said, and our ability to respect both--to address representation, knowledge, and agency--will determine the future of not only U.S. democracy, but also democracy around the world.

Ecklund and Frederick
Boniuk Institute Director Elaine Howard Ecklund with Senior Scholar Awardee Marla F. Frederick.

"There's a way in which we as scholars of religion can take for granted the idea that everyone holds dear the values of pluralism and tolerance, but there are people who are not interested in and fiercely opposed to what we call a multicultural democracy. ...We scholars of religion work to think about the makings of our diverse religious worlds--the sort of histories, the sacred texts, the communities, and the power, and the resources--the affinities that make for religious devotion and care," she remarked. "We are intimately invested in not only understanding religion, but understanding its impact in our everyday lives."

Frederick sees hope for the future of religious scholarship in HDS students, who still believe in religious pluralism and tolerance, she said. Pluralism and tolerance are motivating factors in their classrooms and careers, and HDS students have proved that it is possible to maintain religious beliefs and traditions while being open to appreciating and understanding the beliefs of others.

Nominate for the 2025 Rice University Boniuk Institute Senior Scholar Award

Nominations are now being invited for the 2025 Boniuk Institute Senior Scholar. Learn more about making a nomination.