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138th Berea College Commencement

May 23: Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, and award-winning author and researcher on religious pluralism in America, will be the speaker for Berea College’s 138th Commencement.

Diana L. Eck and Rev. Clifford Cain

Eck will address the expected 227 candidates for graduation as part of ceremonies beginning at 2 p.m. in Seabury Center. Eck also will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Berea.

Rev. Clifford Cain, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Franklin College, will speak at the Sunday morning Baccalaureate Service, scheduled at 10:30 a.m. in Phelps-Stokes Chapel.

The day’s other public events include the Nurses Pinning Service at 9 a.m. in Union Church and a reception at 4 p.m. on the College quadrangle for graduates and guests. Rain site will be Old Seabury Gymnasium in Seabury Center.

Diana L. Eck has taught at Harvard University for more than 30 years. In addition to her current position of Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, she serves on the faculty of the Harvard Divinity School.

Her work on India includes the books “Banaras, City of Light,” (1983) and “Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India” (1982). Her other focus has been on the challenges of religious pluralism in a multi-religious society. Her book “Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras” (1993) explores issues of Christian faith in a world of many faiths and, more broadly, the issues of religious diversity that challenge people of every faith. “Encountering God” won the 1994 Melcher Book Award of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the 1995 Louisville Grawemeyer Book Award in Religion, given for work that reflects a significant breakthrough in our understanding of religion.

In 1991, Eck launched the Pluralism Project to document and interpret the growing presence of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities in the U.S. The research project has involved students and professors at Harvard and in a dozen affiliated colleges and universities in research on America’s new religious landscape. Eck’s most recent book, “A New Religious America: How a ‘Christian Country’ Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation,” (2001) addresses the challenges for the United States of the more complex religious landscape of the post-1965 period of renewed immigration.

In 1998, Eck received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Humanities for her work on American religious pluralism. In 2002, she received the American Academy of Religion Martin Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion, and in 2003, received the Governor’s Humanities Award from the Montana Council for the Humanities in her home state of Montana.

Over her career, Eck also has worked closely with churches on issues of interreligious relations, including her own United Methodist Church and the World Council of Churches. She is currently chair of the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches.

Eck received her B.A. from Smith College, M.A. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Rev. Clifford Cain is a theologian, teacher, and a minister whose clergy credentials are recognized by the American Baptist Churches, USA; the Disciples of Christ and the Presbyterian traditions. He has served on the faculty at Franklin College since 1981. In 2002-2003, he was the Visiting Lilly Professor of Religion at Berea College.

Rev. Cain was educated at Muskingum University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University and Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan. Rev. Cain holds doctorates in theology and in environmental studies.

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