Beginning on June 1, the Aquinas Center at Candler School of Theology, Emory University will welcome its newly hired executive director, Gregory Hillis.
Founded in the Dominican tradition, the Aquinas Center has served the greater Atlanta community for over 35 years through its mission to foster faith in the Atlanta Archdiocese and beyond by offering Catholic scholarly programming that invites ecumenical conversation and dialogue. The Aquinas Center plays a critical role in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, which serves over 1.2 million Catholics.
“I’m enthusiastic about further developing the work of the Center to reach even more people, locally, as well as throughout Georgia and the rest of the country.”
Hillis, who will be the Aquinas Center’s seventh executive director, is enthusiastic about leading the Center at a time of remarkable growth and diversity in the Archdiocese and throughout Atlanta. He says, “The Aquinas Center has such a rich history of providing dynamic and vital programs for Catholics and people of all traditions, and I’m enthusiastic about further developing the work of the Center to reach even more people, locally, as well as throughout Georgia and the rest of the country.”
Kevin Wack, chair of the executive director search committee, says, “As we began to learn more about Dr. Hillis, it became evident early on that the personal vision which animates his work aligns wonderfully with the overarching vision and mission of the Aquinas Center. His academic skillset combined with his charismatic ability to bring theology into public discourse makes him well-suited to collaboratively lead the Aquinas Center into the future.”
Originally from Alberta, Canada, Hillis earned both his MA and PhD from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Prior to joining the Aquinas Center, he spent fifteen years as professor of theology and religious studies at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.
His doctoral research was on early Christian theology, with a focus on St. Cyril of Alexandria, and he continues to work in the area of Catholic-Orthodox relations.
In recent years, Hillis has turned his attention to the life and writings of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk whose literary estate is housed at the Merton Center at Bellarmine University. In addition to teaching courses on Merton, Hillis has delivered lectures throughout the United States and published several academic papers and articles on Merton’s life and thought. His 2021 book Man of Dialogue: Thomas Merton’s Catholic Identity (Liturgical Press) earned a first-place award from the Catholic Media Association in the biography category.
Hillis shares that “I’ve been focused throughout my career on the necessity of dialogue rooted in love, and what attracted me most to the Aquinas Center was the capacity it has to promote and foster dialogue within the Catholic tradition, ecumenically, as well as between religious traditions.” He has a strong commitment to public-facing theology that crosses boundaries of difference, as evidenced by his regular contributions to Commonweal and America magazines, his frequent appearances on podcasts, and his social media presence.
Hillis will join the Aquinas Center’s current staff: Director of Operations Alice Cameron, Catholic-Orthodox Program Coordinator Bob Hauert, and Hispanic Outreach Program Coordinator Valeria Longhi. As Board Chair Marie Marquardt explains, “With his unique combination of gifts and interests, and his strong commitment to engaging diverse communities in the work of public theology, we feel confident that Dr. Hillis will lead the Aquinas Center in exciting new directions, while also building on the Center’s many strengths.”