Race, Religion, Gender, and Multidisciplinary Studies

Mary Olive Woods Trust (MOW)

36th Annual Mary Olive Woods Lecture - September 21, 2023

University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Steven Nadler will present the 36th Annual Mary Olive Woods lecture, "Why was Spinoza Excommunicated?", beginning at 7 p.m. September 21, in the University Union Grand Ballroom. A reception will follow. This event is free and open to the public. Steven Nadler is Vilas Research Professor and the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is currently director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities. Professor Nadler's research focuses on philosophy in the seventeenth century and he also works on medieval and early modern Jewish philosophy.

An additional conversation with Nadler about his work will be held from 9:30 am-11:30 am Sept. 22 in Morgan Hall, room 453. Also, those interested in joining in a reading group of Nadler's work on Friday afternoons before his visit can email WIU Professor Brian Powell at BK-Powell2@wiu.edu for more information.

MOW Trust

The Mary Olive Woods Trust supports the study of religion at Western Illinois University. Mary Olive Woods was born in Littleton Township, Illinois, on April 23, 1871 and died in Macomb at the age of 85. Woods had stated in her will that she wished to give her money to the U.S. government should it become a theocracy; a 1959 court decision found Woods sound of mind but noted that a theocratic government was unlikely in the United States. Following a complicated twenty-nine year court case, a portion of her estate was given to Western Illinois University, which, following the subsequent instructions of the court, now uses it to “provide a curriculum of religious studies and to support speakers on religious topics.”

MOW Lecture

The Mary Olive Woods Trust provides many scholarships to Religious Studies minors as well as to other students in religious studies courses. View the MOW scholarships . It also supports the annual MOW lecture. Coordinated by the former Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies from 1987 to 2016, it featured lecturers from the disciplines of Philosophy and Religious Studies in alternating years. That pattern has continued, now under the auspices of the Department of Race, Religion, Gender, and Multidisciplinary Studies and the Department of Mathematics and Philosophy.

The MOW Trust has supported an eclectic and impressive group of MOW lecturers since 1987. Past MOW lecturers have included Ninian Smart, Martin E. Marty, Wendy Doniger, Martha Nussbaum, Alvin Plantinga, Ann Taves, J. Kameron Carter, and Michael Rea--among many others. 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.

If you would like to give to the MOW Trust, please contact the WIU Foundation and Development Office.

Past Lecturers

  • 2022: Edward E. Curtis IV, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
  • 2021: Michael Rea, University of Notre Dame
  • 2020: No lecture, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 2019: Andrea Jain, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
  • 2018: Timothy O'Connor, Indiana University
  • 2017: Tobias Winright, St. Louis University
  • 2016: Peter van Inwagen, University of Notre Dame
  • 2015: J. Kameron Carter, Duke University Divinity School
  • 2014: Peter Adamson, Ludwig-Maximilians University (Munich)
  • 2013: A. Whitney Sanford, University of Florida
  • 2012: Sally Haslanger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2011: Ann Taves, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 2010: Brian Leiter, The University of Chicago Law School
  • 2009: Margaret Farley, Divinity School at Yale University
  • 2008: Michael Ruse, Florida State University
  • 2007: J. Gordon Melton, Institute for the Study of American Religion
  • 2006: Alvin Plantinga, University of Notre Dame
  • 2005: Robert C. Fuller, Bradley University
  • 2004: Eleonore Stump, Saint Louis University
  • 2003: Robert D. Baird, University of Iowa
  • 2002: Mary B. Mahowald, University of Chicago
  • 2001: John Dominic Crossan, DePaul University
  • 2000: Ernan McMullin, University of Notre Dame
  • 1999: Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago
  • 1998: Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago
  • 1997: Don Browning, Divinity School of the University of Chicago
  • 1996: Carl Wellman, Washington University
  • 1995: Ninian Smart, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 1994: Arthur Fine, Northwestern University
  • 1993: Judith Berling, Graduate Theological Union
  • 1992: Jean Hampton, University of Arizona
  • 1991: Martin E. Marty, University of Chicago
  • 1990: Jeffrie Murphy, Arizona State University
  • 1989: Langdon Gilkey, Divinity School of the University of Chicago
  • 1988: John McDermott, Texas A&M University
  • 1987: Walter Capps, University of California, Santa Barbara