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John Simmons Named Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies at WIU

January 27, 2006

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MACOMB, IL - - John Simmons, a distinguished professor of religious studies at Western Illinois University, has been named chair of WesternÂ’s philosophy and religious studies department, effective Feb. 1, according to College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Dean Inessa Levi.

Simmons succeeds Mario Morelli, who is retiring Jan. 31 after more than 33 years at Western, including the past seven years as department chair.

A prominent authority on women in religion, new religious movements and American religion, Simmons has assisted major news organizations, including serving as a guest commentator on the MSNBC investigative report "Exorcisms" (2001).

“Dr. Simmons brings a wealth of experience and a laudable record of achievement to the position of the chair of philosophy of religious studies,” said Levi. “He has more than 30 publications, he received the CAS Outstanding Teacher Award in 1994 and he was named Western’s Distinguished Faculty Lecturer in 1998. His extensive service contributions include his work as director of Faculty Development, chair of the University Curriculum Committee (CCPI) and chair of the John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture Committee.”

Simmons pioneered an Illinois higher education system teleclass "Beliefs and Believers," an introduction to world view analysis of religion which highlights religious rituals and phenomena of diverse religions. In Fall 2000, "Beliefs and Believers" debuted as an interactive self-paced CD-ROM course to sailors in the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE). Another course, "Women in Religion," which looks at the powerful presence of women on the world religious consciousness, received the national Credit Program of Excellence Award. His teleclass, "Religion in America: A Historic Perspective," received the 1994 Creative Program Credit Excellence Award.

Simmons, who served as vice president of the National Council on Religion and Public Education, received seven consecutive WIU Faculty Excellence Awards (1989-1996) and two Professional Achievement Awards (1999 & 2003).

“I’m honored to take over as chair of one of the finest departments on campus. Mario Morelli, during his tenure as chair, has provided a model for excellence in this important administrative position, and my challenge will be to continue our department’s tradition of quality teaching, research and service to students and the University community,” Simmons said.

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