Professor Lester

The Lester Lectureship is an annual presentation of original work that addresses contemporary issues in the academic study of religion.The Department established this lectureship in honor of our colleague Robert C. Lester (1933-2013) upon his retirement in May 1998.

We wish to recognize the contribution Professor Lester has made to the Department and the profession. He joined the faculty of the University of Colorado in 1970 with a mandate to establish a program for the study of religion. The major in Religious Studies was approved in 1972. Professor Lester directed the program until it attained departmental status in 1980, after which he served as chair from 1980-82 and 1988-91. His service to the University was acknowledged through the presentation of the University Medal in 1982.

Professor Lester has contributed significantly to the field of Religious Studies through scholarly publication as author of Ramanuja on YogaTheravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia, and Buddhism: The Path to Nirvana and as editor of Srivacana Bhushana of Pillai Lokacharya. He has contributed a number of book chapters and articles on various aspects of Hinduism as well.

The Lester Lectureship is supported by the gifts of faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the program. If you would like to make a donation to the Robert C Lester Lectureship in Religious Studies Foundation, please click here.

Fall 2022 Lester Lecture: "Speaking of the Devil:
Constructing Good and Evil in Early Christian Sources"

Dr. Elaine Pagels gave the fall 2022 Lester Lecture, "Speaking of the Devil: Constructing Good and Evil in Early Christian Sources," on November 16, 2022. Dr. Pagels is a New York Times bestseller whose bold and original scholarship has garnered prestigious awards and accolades, among them: a MacArthur “genius” grant, Rockefeller and Guggenheim fellowships, and a NEH National Humanities Award.  

Spring 2022 Lester Lecture: "Religious Studies and Reimagining the Human in the Climate Crisis"

Dr. David Haberman gave the Spring 2022 Lester Lecture, "Religious Studies and Reimagining the Human in the Climate Crisis," on April 14, 2022 at 5:00 pm in the British and Irish Studies Room at Norlin Library. This special lecture celebrated the Lester Lecture's 40th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the CU Boulder religious studies program. A special exhibit in Norlin Library, "Becoming Less: The Journey of Robert Lester," also honored the department's founder, Robert Lester. 

David L. Haberman is a professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. A specialist in the Hindu traditions of northern India, his interests include religion as a worldwide phenomenon and vital feature of human experience. His keynote address focused on the emerging field of Religion and Ecology.

group photo April 2022 Lester Lecture

The Lester Lectureship has hosted several distinguished scholars from the field of religious studies. Lectures are free and open to the public. Past honorees have included:

  • Elaine Pagels, Princeton University. "Speaking of the Devil: Constructing Good and Evil in Early Christian Sources." November 16, 2022
  • David L. Haberman, Indiana University. "Religious Studies and Reimagining the Human in the Climate Crisis." April 14, 2022
  • Kecia Ali, Boston University.  "Contesting Muhammad: Contemporary Controversies in Historical Perspective." September 13, 2018.
  • Robert Orsi, Northwestern University.  "Violence, Memory, and Religion Among Survivors of Clerical Sexual Abuse."  November 9, 2017.
  • Christian K. Wedemeyer, University of Chicago. "'Merely a Symbolic Gesture': Semiology, Ritual, and Reality among South Asian Tantrists and the Nacirema." November 2, 2015.
  • David Nirenberg, University of Chicago. "Sibling Rivalries, Scriptural Communities: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." November 10, 2014. 
  • Catherine Keller, Drew University. "The Matter of Entanglement: On the Physics, Sex, and Spirit of a Relational Ontology." October 10, 2013.
  • Manuel Vasquez, University of Florida. "The Materialist Turn in Religious Studies: Promises, Challenges, and Pitfalls." October 4, 2012.
  • Ananda Abeysekere, Virginia Tech. "The Un-translatability of Religion, The Un-translatability of Life." February 7, 2011.
  • Amy Hollywood, Harvard University. “Love and the Heretic.” September 2009.
  • Russell McCutcheon, University of Alabama. “’They Licked the Platter Clean’:  On the Co-Dependency of the Religious and the Secular.” September 2007.This lecture was subsequently published under the same title in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 19 (2007) 173-199.
  • Tony Swain, University of Sydney, Australia. “Varieties of Religious Aesthetic.” Four-part lecture series, February-March 2003.
  • John Stratton Hawley, Barnard College, Columbia University. “God’s Vacation:  Remembrance and Retreat as Religion.” February 2002.
  • Thomas A. Tweed, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “On Moving Across: Diaspora, Religion, and the Interpreter’s Position.” March 2001.
  • Tomoko Masuzawa, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. “The Question of Universality:  Counting the ‘World Religions’ in the 19th Century.” March 2000.
  • David L. Haberman, Indiana University. “Religious Studies 2000.” Inaugural Lester Lecture, February 1999.