Ellen B. Aitken

Message from Dean Aitken

The Faculty of Religious Studies has long benefited from the visionary philanthropy of its donors. Founded in 1948, the Faculty has grown into an internationally recognized centre for multi-religious scholarship that educates more than 300 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels each year through its degree programs, and teaches close to 1,000 students from across campus who take one or more of its classes. Since 2007, thanks to Campaign McGill, it has made great strides in its teaching, research and service to the community.

It is fitting, then, that as this historic fundraising endeavour concludes, we offer our sincere thanks to our many benefactors, who have given our Faculty the support we need to offer the world-class education with which our name is synonymous.

In May, we were honoured to celebrate the establishment of the Barbara and Patrick Keenan Chair in Interfaith Studies, the first Chair of its kind in Canada. With this Chair, we will be able to recruit a leading scholar who will build upon interdisciplinary scholarship in the study of the world’s religions and the interface of religion and society. The holder of the new chair will also help develop an innovative course with the mandate of fostering a greater religious literacy among undergraduates from across the University early in their education at McGill, highlighting the role of religion in shaping cultures and societies.

The Campaign has bolstered the level of funding we offer our students, whose talents are central to our mission. Through the generosity of Montreal’s Slovak Catholic Church of Ascension Eastern Rite (Byzantine), we have established a valuable entrance scholarship to help theological students beginning their careers at McGill. Similarly, donors like Emeritus Professor Lawrence Mysak, who along with family and friends created the Mary Mysak Prize in Asian Religions, have offered much-needed financial assistance to outstanding undergraduates. Similarly, a Graduate Student Dissertation Fund has been established and nourished by donors, including faculty members and members of the Faculty Advisory Board.

We are also honoured to host, in June 2013, the inaugural Birks Forum on the World’s Religions and Public Policy, an event made possible by a gift from the Birks Family Foundation. And in November 2010, we welcomed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to campus to launch the McGill Initiative in the World’s Religions and Globalization, which, through teaching, research, and engagement with the public, enhances understanding of the interrelationships between with world’s religions and the dynamics of globalization from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

None of these milestones would have been possible without the generosity of our donors. Your support for our innovative research and teaching, outstanding students and continued outreach to the public nourishes this very special Faculty, and will allow it to flourish in the years to come. We remain deeply grateful for all that you do for us, for McGill and for education in this country.

Professor Ellen B. Aitken
Dean, Faculty of Religious Studies