From the April 2018 Desktop News | Dr. Russell T. McCutcheon, the chair of the religious studies department at The University of Alabama, was recently appointed by the UA Board of Trustees as a Distinguished Research Professor—one of the University’s most prestigious awards.
This title recognizes UA faculty who have amassed international successes in their fields and received extensive peer recognition for their scholarly contributions and noteworthy academic service. Fewer than 10 faculty members in the University’s history have been honored with the appointment.
“He is an internationally recognized scholar considered among the top in his field, even by scholars who disagree with his views,” Dr. Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in a letter of recommendation for McCutcheon.
His peers have called him “one of the three or four most influential figures in religious studies” and have claimed that “his scholarship has defined the field of religious studies for decades.”
McCutcheon, who originally got his undergraduate degree in life sciences from Queen’s University, in Canada, went on to receive three master’s degrees as well as a doctoral degree from the University of Toronto in religious studies.
He has worked at The University of Alabama since 2001, and 13 of his 17 years at UA have been as the chair of the religious studies department. Earlier this year, he was appointed to serve a fourth term as chair.
Including those that will come out this summer, McCutcheon has authored ten books, edited or co-edited ten others, and published over 125 scholarly articles, book chapters, replies, and review essays, many in the leading journals in his field. His work has been translated into a variety of languages, from Bulgarian and Ukrainian to Greek, German, French, and Japanese. He has also served on eight editorial advisory boards, six of which are international; he has been the President of two different academic associations; and this year he was appointed by his field’s main professional association as its delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)
Beyond his scholarship, McCutcheon has also been a standard for excellence in teaching, placing special emphasis on the importance of introductory core courses.
Former UA student Amanda Alexander, who is currently working on her doctoral degree in religious studies at Emory University, said of him, “Of the many great professors with whom I have worked through the course of my undergraduate career, my master’s degree, and in my doctoral coursework, Professor McCutcheon stands out as the most engaging, influential, helpful, and dedicated professor with whom I have ever worked.”
“I can say without reservation that he is one of the most prolific, engaged, and dedicated faculty members at this University,” Olin said.
UA’s department of religious studies, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards, including Rhodes and Goldwater scholarships.