Dr. Larry Shinn, President of Berea College, to Present Commencement Address

April 06, 2010


Dr. Larry D. Shinn, president of Berea College in Kentucky, will deliver the commencement address at the 157th Commencement Ceremonies, to be held Sunday, May 11 at 1:30 p.m. in the Timken Building.




Dr. Larry Shinn

Dr. Larry Shinn


A native of Alliance, Shinn is a religion scholar and author and editor of six books on world religions. He became the eighth president of Berea College in August of 1994.

Shinn assumed the presidency of Berea College after serving from 1989-94 as vice president for academic affairs and professor of religion at Bucknell University. Shinn was a faculty member and administrator at Bucknell for 10 years and served from 1984 - 89 as dean of the college of arts and sciences. He began his career in higher education at Oberlin College, where he taught for 14 years and was appointed William H. Danforth Professor of Religion.

An ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, Shinn has conducted research in India and in Jordan, where he and his wife Nancy taught for 15 months. He has received a number of major academic awards and research grants and was a Fellow in the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago and a Princeton University Fellow.

Shinn received his bachelor's degree in religion in 1964 from Baldwin-Wallace College, where he graduated magna cum laude. He earned his bachelor of divinity degree from Drew Theological School in 1968, graduating summa cum laude. He received his doctorate in the History of Religions from Princeton in 1972.

After graduating from high school in Alliance, where he was co-captain of the football team and a member of the baseball and track squads, he declined football scholarships at several major universities and attended Baldwin-Wallace on an academic scholarship. He was co-captain of the Baldwin-Wallace football team and was named to the Methodist All-American team as a lineman. He also ran track and was named the college's outstanding athlete for 1963-64.

At Drew Theological School, Shinn majored in New Testament studies and, at Princeton, focused on the religions of India. His specialization at Princeton was in the Hindu Bhakti (devotional) traditions associated with the Indian deity Krishna. His dissertation was on the 10th century A.D. Hindu (Krishna) scripture called the Bhagavata Purana.

Shinn is the author of "Two Sacred World: Experience and Structure in the World's Religions," and "Dark Lord: Cult Images and the Hare Krishnas in America." He is the co-author of "Lustful Maidens and Ascetic Kings," associate editor for the major reference work "The Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions," editor of "In Search of the Divine: Some Unexpected Consequences of Interfaith Dialogue," and co-editor of "Krishna Consciousness in the West." He has received academic awards and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago, the NEH, Princeton University and other institutions and foundations.

He is married to the former Nancy Lee Albright, also an Alliance native and a Baldwin-Wallace College graduate. Her undergraduate degree is in education, and she earned a graduate degree in that field from Bucknell. She is a specialist in early childhood programs and taught kindergarten prior to moving to Berea.

The Shinns, who were married in 1963, have two daughters and five grandchildren.

Berea College, founded in 1855, has been guided by a self-help philosophy. The college is committed to seeking out promising low-income students in the mountains of central and southern Appalachia and provide them with a tuition-free education. The college developed a work program so that its students could take advantage of a private, liberal arts education that would otherwise be unaffordable to them.

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