Dr. Russell T. McCutcheon, the chair of the religious studies department at The University of Alabama, recently was appointed by the UA Board of Trustees as a Distinguished Research Professor — one of UA’s most prestigious awards.
This title recognizes UA faculty who have amassed international successes in their fields and received extensive peer recognition for their scholarly contributions and noteworthy academic service. Fewer than 10 faculty members in the University’s history have been honored with the appointment.
“He is an internationally recognized scholar considered among the top in his field, even by scholars who disagree with his views,” wrote Dr. Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in a letter of recommendation for McCutcheon.
His peers have called him “one of the three or four most influential figures in religious studies” and have said that “his scholarship has defined the field of religious studies for decades.”
McCutcheon earned his undergraduate degree in life sciences from Queen’s University in Canada and went on to receive three master’s degrees as well as a doctorate from the University of Toronto in religious studies.
He has worked at The University of Alabama since 2001, and 13 of his 17 years at UA have been as the chair of the religious studies department. Earlier this year, he was appointed to serve a fourth term as chair.
Including those that will come out this summer, McCutcheon has written 10 books, edited or co-edited 10 others and published more than 125 scholarly articles, book chapters, replies and review essays, many in the leading journals in his field. His work has been translated into a variety of languages, from Bulgarian and Ukrainian to Greek, German, French and Japanese. He has also served on eight editorial advisory boards, six of which are international. In addition, he has been the president of two different academic associations. This year, he was appointed by his field’s main professional association as its delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies.
Beyond his scholarship, McCutcheon has also been a standard for excellence in teaching, placing emphasis on the importance of introductory core courses.
“Of the many great professors with whom I have worked through the course of my undergraduate career, my master’s degree, and in my doctoral coursework, Professor McCutcheon stands out as the most engaging, influential, helpful and dedicated professor with whom I have ever worked,” said former UA student Amanda Alexander, who is currently working on a doctorate in religious studies at Emory University.
“I can say without reservation that he is one of the most prolific, engaged and dedicated faculty members at this University,” Olin said.
UA’s department of religious studies, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards, including Rhodes and Goldwater scholarships.