Candler has received two gifts that will benefit the growth of religious education and Methodist studies at the school. Notably, these gifts were not given by alumni or charitable foundations, but by two retired members of Candler’s faculty, Professor Emeritus of Religion and Education Charles R. Foster and Dean Emeritus and William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church History Russell E. Richey.

Foster, who taught at Candler from 1988 to 2001, and his wife, Janet, are establishing the Charles R. and Janet T. Foster Endowment for Engaging Religion and Education in Forming and Transforming Faith Communities and Public Life. Richey, dean of Candler from 2000 to 2006 and a member of the faculty until his retirement in 2011, and his wife, Merle, are establishing the Russell E. and Merle U. Richey Professorship in Methodist and Wesleyan Studies.

“Not only are Chuck Foster and Russ Richey beloved members of the Candler community, but both had outstanding careers and are widely respected as leaders in their fields,” says Candler Dean Jan Love. “That they both have chosen to invest in Candler in this way is so meaningful. It speaks volumes that they put their trust in us to steward their investment in strengthening theological education.”

Engaging Religious Education in Faith Communities and Public Life

Charles FosterThe Charles R. and Janet T. Foster Endowment for Engaging Religion and Education in Forming and Transforming Faith Communities and Public Life will support the field of religious education at Candler, including initiatives preparing youth, seminary students, clergy, and scholars for leadership in theologically grounded educational ministries of ecclesial and public formation and transformation. Activities will include full-time or visiting faculty, lectureships, and scholarships and stipends for students and faculty.

During his years at Candler, Foster served as director of the school’s Christian education program, associate dean for faculty development from 1997-1999 and as interim dean from 1999-2000. He also taught in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion, serving as the first director of the Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunity Program (TATTO), and chaired the organizational team behind Candler’s Youth Theological Initiative (YTI), now in its 26th year.

Associate Professor in the Practice of Youth Education and Peacebuilding Elizabeth Corrie, who serves as director of Candler’s Religious Education program and YTI, says that Foster’s legacy remains strong at Candler and YTI. “Chuck Foster’s commitments to racial justice, critical consciousness and liberative pedagogy shaped YTI in a distinct way. Over 25 years of the program, we have evolved to meet the demands of the changing landscape of our society and church, but the focus on seeking justice through critical reflection and empowering a diverse range of young people to become agents of transformation is part of our DNA—a mark of Dr. Foster’s ongoing impact.”

Foster says that Candler and Emory’s deep commitment to the praxis of theological inquiry in the lived experience of communities of faith and public life was a major factor in their decision to establish the endowment. The Fosters hope that their gift will help Candler faculty members working in religious education to advance the conversation, focus their research, and give leadership to innovations in reclaiming the role of education in forming and transforming communities of faith and public life. This is a challenge in today’s climate, due to what Foster calls “a lack of attention to education.”

Foster holds that Candler is one of few academic or ecclesial settings in the nation with enough commitment to the research and teaching needed to prepare clergy, lay leaders, teachers, and researchers to engage in religious education outside the classroom. “We hope this gift might be the catalyst to robust research, instruction and advocacy for education in forming a vital and relevant faith among persons, in religious communities, and through those communities in public life.”  

Ensuring Faculty Excellence

Russell RicheyThe Russell E. Richey and Merle U. Richey Professorship in Methodist and Wesleyan Studies will provide support for an endowed faculty position at Candler.

A cradle Methodist and a noted church historian, Richey has made significant contributions to Methodism. He has authored, co-authored or co-edited some 20 books on the denomination, as well as dozens of articles and reviews. Co-editor (with Rex Matthews) of the Candler-based Methodist Review, he serves on the editorial boards of Methodist History,  Journal of Southern Religion and of GBHEM’s New Room Books and as a member of the UMC’s Committee on Faith and Order. 

Professor Emeritus in the Practice of Historical Theology and Wesleyan Studies Rex Matthews, who organized an academic conference and edited a Festschrift in honor of Richey upon his retirement, calls him a mentor for students, a model for colleagues, and a deeply committed church leader. “Throughout his career, Russ Richey has provided the church and world with a deep and rich understanding of the nature and mission of Methodism in America, and future scholars will build upon his work for years to come. But his contributions to the world of Wesleyan and Methodist scholarship have not been limited to the fruits of his own research and writing—he has also been involved in a host of ways in facilitating the scholarship of others.”

The Richeys’ own experiences with gifts and endowments ultimately moved them to give back to Candler. Recipient of college, seminary and doctoral scholarships, Russ remembers especially a donor who welcomed letters of appreciation, penned genial responses back, and increased the award. He also credits grants with helping to underwrite his research and writing.

Seeking to emulate such generosity, he and Merle have contributed to various causes and institutions supporting educational and churchly interests: student scholarships and awards at Duke Divinity School honoring his father, where Russ also taught for 14 years and now serves as a visiting faculty member; a student achievement award at Candler; and a history professorship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill named for Merle’s father. 

In his leadership roles in higher education, Richey became very aware of the “gifts that keep on giving.” As dean of Candler, he made a concerted effort to attract chair-level commitments, knowing how 500-year-old named professorships at Oxford and Cambridge live on in today’s scholarly world. Thus, after retirement, with appreciation for “the kindness extended by Dean Jan Love and colleagues,” the Richeys committed to sustain teaching and research in Methodist studies by establishing an endowed professorship at Candler.

“These gifts, one focused on formation outside of the classroom and one focused on faculty excellence, are perfect for Candler because they mirror our approach to theological education, blending academic and contextual learning,” says Dean Love. “We are thrilled that two of Candler’s most beloved and revered faculty members have chosen to support the future of the school in this way.”

Newsletter photo of Foster courtesy of Myron McGhee 95T.

Article photo of Foster courtesy of Biola University.