University says farewell to religious studies professor

Charles S. Prebish, professor of religious studies, will retire Dec. 31 from Penn State, following more than 35 years of service. Prebish is leaving Penn State to become holder of the Charles Redd endowed chair in religious studies at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. He will assume his new position Jan. 1.

Prebish has written or edited 20 books in the field of Buddhist studies and authored nearly 100 refereed articles and chapters. He has been an officer in the International Association of Buddhist Studies, as well as serving two additional terms on its board of directors. He was a founding co-chair of the Buddhism section of the American Academy of Religion.

Along with professor Damien Keown of the University of London, he founded the online Journal of Buddhist Ethics, which was the first peer-reviewed online journal in the field of religious studies. Later, he also co-founded the online Journal of Global Buddhism. With Keown, he served as co-editor of the "Critical Studies in Buddhism" series, published by Routledge, publishing more than 50 scholarly titles between 1996 and 2006. Also with Keown, he was co-editor of the 1,000-page "Encyclopedia of Buddhism," and currently serves as co-editor of the new Routledge "World Religions" textbook series.

In 2004, he created the Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books project, designed to furnish eTextbooks for college courses on religion. "Buddhism-The eBook," the first publication of the project, has been used in nearly three dozen universities in North America, Europe and Australia.

Prebish is best known in Buddhist studies for his work on the early Indian monastic tradition, focusing on the codes that govern the monastic order. Along with Janice Nattier, now of Soka University in Japan, he solved the problem of the historical beginning of the Buddhist sectarian movement in India, generally thought to be the knottiest problem in Buddhist history. His work on American Buddhism, begun in the early 1970s, is considered pioneering in developing the study of "Western Buddhism" as a new sub-discipline in Buddhist studies. His ancillary work on the relationship between religion and sport was considered ground-breaking in that area, and has been the subject of many panels at the meetings of professional societies.

Prebish held the Numata chair in Buddhist studies at the University of Calgary in fall 1993, as distinguished visiting professor, and in 1997-98 was a Rockefeller National Humanities Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto.

He has served as editor-in-chief of Critical Review of Books in Religion, and has served on the editorial boards of Buddhist Studies Review, Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Religious Studies Review.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009