Story posted October 29, 2002
John Clifford Holt, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Religion and the Humanities and chair of the religion department, will be honored in December by the University of Peradeniya (formerly the University of Ceylon) in Sri Lanka. The University of Peradeniya is one of the leading institutions of higher learning in South Asia.
The university will award an Honorary Doctor of Literature Degree (D.Lit.) at its convocation December 18 to Prof. Holt in recognition of his many contributions to Sri Lankan studies (the study of its religious culture in particular).
Several of Holtís publications have been translated into Sinhala, one of the primary languages of Sri Lanka. These include Buddha in the Crown (1991), The Religious World of Kirti Sri (1996), and the forthcoming The Buddhist Vishnu. Buddha in the Crown was the recipient of two national book awards: the 1992 American Academy of Religion Book Award for Excellence, and the Presidentís Award for Original Research by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Government of Sri Lanka.
In 1982 Holt organized and founded the Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program for a consortium of private liberal arts colleges here in the U.S. Bowdoin College is the agency institution for the consortium. The ISLE Program, formally affiliated to the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, provides up to 24 students annually with the opportunity to pursue academic interests in South Asia. Course offerings include language study, archaeology, ancient and modern history, Buddhist philosophy and practice, social and gender issues, literature and folklore, politics and government, economics, environmental studies, dance, and independent study.
Holt regularly visits Sri Lanka to continue his research projects, and has taught on a number of occasions as a visiting professor in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Peradeniya.
Prof. Holt joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1978. He teaches courses about Asian religious traditions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as courses on theoretical approaches to the study of religion. In 1986 he served as the first chair of Bowdoin's Asian Studies program.
He earned an A.B. (cum laude) in history from Gustavus Adolphus, an A.M. (with distinction) in history and phenomenology of religions from the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley), and a Ph.D. in history of religions from the University of Chicago.
To learn more about the ISLE Program click here.
To learn more about the University of Peradeniya click here.