Union College professor earns fellowship

Published on
January 07, 2013

Union College assistant professor of religion and humanities, Jon Cooley, was recently awarded an Appalachian College Association fellowship, which will allow him to make significant progress toward completing his doctorate degree.

Funding from this pre-doctoral fellowship will enable Cooley to take a semester's leave from Union to focus on his dissertation for the Faculty of Divinity within the University of Cambridge. Along with compensating Union College for Cooley's salary, the fellowship will cover the salary of his substitute during the upcoming fall semester, when his leave begins.

The title of Cooley's dissertation is "The Christological Transformation of Theology: The Three-Fold Office of Christ in H. Richard Niebuhr and Karl Barth." To put it simply it concentrates on how two leading Christian intellectuals, Niebuhr and Barth, developed responses to the influential social, political, economic, cultural and religious circumstances of the twentieth century.

Cooley acknowledged that the dissertation itself would probably not be of interest to anyone outside a very narrow band of Western academic theologians; however, he said that the work itself would inform and guide the work that he does in Union's classrooms.

"Grounded, as the (Union) core is, in the broad traditions of the Liberal Arts, I find that the concerns Barth and Niebuhr were wrestling with in their own work...are to surprising extents the same questions my students face," Cooley said. "And if I am unable to be unabashedly Christian in my presentation of the material and, as a result, cannot simply offer a religious 'solution' to the issues I pose, I can at least highlight the under-appreciated resources possessed within Christian traditions, thereby 'forcing' my students to be responsible, if only a little, for their own freedom."

Cooley said he would like to express gratitude to not only Union College, but to his colleagues who were instrumental in helping him earn the fellowship. He specifically named Russ Sisson, Ph.D., professor of religion and department chair, who supported the entire application process; Andelys Wood, Ph.D., interim vice president for academic affairs, who wrote the institutional letter of recommendation, a critical component of the process; and Larry Inkster, Ed.D., who served last year in the capacity Wood does now, and encouraged Cooley during a separate attempt to earn a fellowship.

"Of course," Cooley said, "I am grateful to the Appalachian College Association, both for supporting the scholars and students of the institutions with the assocation in general and me in particular."