AUSTIN, Texas—The Foundation for Biblical Studies has created two endowments worth $4 million and teamed with the Foundation for Religious Studies to create a third $1 million endowment to fund research and teaching in Biblical studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
“These gifts will certainly get the study of antiquity and Christian origins off the ground and running – a goal we have had for a number of years,” said Dr. L. Michael White, professor of classics and Christian origins and director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins. “We expect that in the next few years, the University will become one of the major programs in the country in the academic study of the Bible and it’s world.”
Of the $5 million, $2 million will be set aside in an endowment for the Louise Farmer Boyer Chair in Biblical Studies. Boyer, a 1930 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, has been a longtime supporter of Biblical Studies at the University. The chair will be devoted to research and teaching in Biblical Greek and Christian origins.
In addition, $2 million will endow the Professor William Shive Excellence Fund for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins. Proceeds from this endowment will support the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins, a graduate research center focusing on religions of the Mediterranean world, the study of the Bible in its historical context, archeological work and other areas of study. The work of the Institute supports research both in classics and in the Religious Studies program at the University.
The excellence fund is named for the late Dr. William Shive, a professor in the chemistry department from 1944 to 1987 and chairman of the department for 19 of those years. Shive was a strong supporter of efforts to bring the academic study of the Bible to the University’s curriculum.
The two foundations have jointly funded a $1 million endowment to support teaching and research in the fields of antiquity and Christian origins, history, archeology and Biblical studies. It will be known as the Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins.
Smith is minister to visitors and new members at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin and serves as summer priest at Trinity Episcopal Church on Mackinac Island, Mich. He holds two graduate degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, an MBA and a master’s in philosophy. He has championed the need for greater awareness of the Bible in history to bring greater knowledge to these ancient texts and greater understanding to contemporary issues.
“The Institute provides our Foundation with a unique opportunity to advance the study and research of Bible-based religion at the academic level at a state university,” said Tommy Thompson, chairman of the board of the Foundation for Biblical Studies.
“The commitment of $5 million to fund two academic chairs and an Excellence Fund underscores our conviction that the Institute for the Study of Antiquities and Christian Origins will become an internationally recognized world-class center for Biblical research and academic endeavor.”
Bill Hilgers, chairman of the board for the Foundation for Religious Studies, stressed that his organization is ecumenical and supports academic study of all religions.
“This gift fulfills a major need in higher education and that is a better understanding of religious traditions and the history of religion in our world,” Hilgers said.