Race, Religion, Gender, and Multidisciplinary Studies

Mary Olive Woods Trust (MOW)

35th Annual Mary Olive Woods Lecture - September 15, 2022

Dr. Edward E. Curtis IV

Dr. Edward E. Curtis IV delivered the 35th Annual Mary Olive Woods Lecture, “Muslims of the Heartland: How Syrian Immigrants Made a Home in the American Midwest.” Dr. Curtis is Professor of Religious Studies, William M. and Gail M. Plater Chair of the Liberal Arts, and Adjunct Professor of American Studies and Africana Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

The descendant of the first Arab American immigrants to Southern Illinois, Professor Curtis has authored fourteen books on Muslim American, African American, and Arab American history and life, among them Arab Indianapolis; The Call of Bilal: Islam in the African Diaspora; Muslims in America: A Short History; and Islam in Black America: Identity, Liberation, and Difference in African-American Islamic Thought. Dr. Curtis is a graduate of the University of South Africa (DLitt et Phil), Washington University in St. Louis (MA), and Kenyon College (BA). His academic interests include Arab American studies, Islamic studies, Africana religions, and US history. He is co-founder of the Journal of Africana Religions.

Professor Curtis has served as a summer director for National Endowment of the Humanities seminars, and received fellowships from Fulbright, Luce, Carnegie, NEH, the American Academy of Religion, and Andrew Mellon. He is currently directing the Arab Indianapolis community history project.

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 (add link to scholarships page here). 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