Philosophy & Religious Studies

Mary Olive Woods History

Mary Olive Woods was born in Littleton township on April 23rd, 1871 and died in Macomb, IL at the age of 85. Following a complicated twenty-nine year court case a portion of her estate was given to Western Illinois University. The complications with Woods’ will stemmed from the fact that she and her husband Orel Woods never had children and that her original will stipulated the inheritance should go to the U.S. government if it ever became a theocracy under one Protestant God. However, a 1959 court decision found Woods sound of mind but noted that a theocratic government was unlikely in the United States. In 1985 a McDonough County Circuit judge ruled that 75% of the trust funds would go to the Littleton Baptist Church while the remaining 25% would go to the Western Illinois University Foundation, a fund-raising branch of the University.

Objectives of MOW Trust

The primary objectives of Mary Olive Woods Trust are to provide, under the auspices of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, support for the education of students in the department and for lectures.

The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies is fortunate to have the MOW Trust to support scholarships and an annual lecture. The MOW Trust has supported an eclectic and impressive group of scholars since 1987. Past MOW guest speakers include: Ninian Smart, Martin E. Marty, Michael Ruse, Wendy Doniger, and Alvin Plantinga. Every Fall a campus-wide lecture is given followed the next morning by a smaller discussion and question/answer session open to interested students and faculty.

More information about the Mary Olive Woods Scholarships

Carter Invited to Deliver 2015 Mary Olive Woods Lecture

J. Kameron Carter

Kameron Carter, an associate professor of Theology and Black Church Studies at Duke University Divinity School, will deliver the 29th annual Mary Olive Woods Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 in the Western Illinois University Union Grand Ballroom. 

The lecture at WIU is titled, "Bonhoeffer's (and Our) Postracial Blues."

"Race is changing," said Carter. "Our engagement with it is changing. One of the new key cultural terms of this transformation is this notion of postracialism, and I am very interested in how this postracialism actually becomes a new form of racism and how theological and religious thought forms are a part of the processes of race."

Carter received his doctoral degree in religious studies, with a concentration in theology, ethics and culture, from the University of Virginia. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed book "Race: A Theological Account" (Oxford University Press, 2008). He also edited "Religion and the Futures of Blackness," an interdisciplinary collection of essays by scholars from the fields of religious studies, theological studies, black critical theory and philosophy. 

Carter is also the author of the forthcoming book, "God's Property: Blackness and the Problem of Sovereignty," (Duke University Press).

The 29th annual lecture is sponsored by the Mary Olive Woods Foundation and the WIU Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. The Mary Olive Woods Foundation also provides several thousand dollars in student scholarships each year in addition to an annual lecture presentation.