The Department of Religious Studies is committed to bringing to Pitt diverse and innovative speakers, events, and films on timely issues of significance to the study of religion; to regularly participating in community and school diversity workshops and programs in the western Pennsylvania region; to providing our students with opportunities beyond the classroom to experience religion in situ; and to supporting the professional activities and research agendas of our undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.

Department events are open to the public, and we welcome all members of the University and local communities to join us. Please visit Events for a listing of our activities. To receive department announcements about upcoming events, please join our mailing list. You need not be a member of the department to subscribe.

To catch up on some of our latest department, faculty, and student activities and milestones, please visit News.

Alumni (undergraduate and graduate): We want to hear from you. Please e-mail us about your news and accomplishments or to simply stay in touch by providing us with your current contact information. For your convenience, the Pitt Online Connection is available to alumni to update contact information. It is also a fast and easy way for alumni to locate and (re)connect with one another.


The department depends on the continued generosity of alumni and friends to help support our activities and to enhance the learning experiences of our students. We use gifts primarily to help ensure that our students are able to take full advantage of travel and research opportunities that are critical to their professional training and development. The support of alumni and friends of Religious Studies is crucial in enabling students to visit archives, libraries, and field sites; to travel to deliver papers at professional conferences; and to experience first-hand the cultures they study both in the United States and abroad. Gifts are also used to help underwrite field trips for undergraduates, convene our major events, and bring distinguished speakers to the Oakland campus.

We have several funds that help support our activities. We invite you to make a gift to one of these funds and make a tangible difference in the intellectual lives of our students, the department, the University, and the Pittsburgh community.

Rhodora and Dick Barton Endowed Fund for Student Resources in the Department of Religious Studies

The Barton Fund supports the John C. Jr. and Lucine O’Brien Marous Chair in Contemporary Catholic Studies and related course curriculum development, implementation, and enhancement. It is used specifically but is not limited to providing library reference materials, guest lectures, field trips and/or awards for books, travel, or other educational experiences for students enrolled in the program.

Fred W. Clothey Fund for the Study of South Asia and Ritual

This fund honors Dr. Fred W. Clothey, professor emeritus in the Department of Religious Studies and a pioneer in the ethnographic study of South Asian religion and ritual studies. Grants are available to students to help defray costs involved in conference participation or research-related travel for projects dealing with India, South Asia, or ritual studies.

Adrienne Spillar Memorial Fund

Adrienne Spillar was a graduate student in our department who worked on American religion and media studies.  During her time at Pitt, she was deeply involved in furthering undergraduate and graduate education and worked as the Graduate Student Organization coordinator in the Dietrich School Graduate Dean’s Office.  This fund was established by some of our graduate alumni in memory of their colleague and friend after her death.  Grants are available to students to help defray costs involved in conference participation or research-related travel for projects dealing with American religion, understood broadly. 

Linda Penkower Memorial Essay Prize

Linda Penkower (1951-2018) joined the University of Pittsburgh faculty in 1991 and taught in the Department of Religious Studies until her death.  She was chair of the department from 2007 to 2018.  She was a renowned scholar of medieval Chinese and Japanese Buddhist history, Tiantai Buddhism, and contemporary religion in East Asia. Throughout her career, she was especially devoted to mentoring and advising undergraduate and graduate students.  She helped establish the capstone research seminar for undergraduate majors and taught it several times, including in her last semester of teaching before her untimely death.   The faculty of the department awards the prize to the graduating religious studies major whose senior research paper best exemplifies Professor Penkower’s standards of rigorous scholarship, precise analysis, and polished prose.   

Wilmer Lecture in Christianity

This endowed fund supports guest lectures by distinguished scholars on any topic connected to the study of Christianity, past and present.  It was established in 1983 on the retirement of Richard H. Wilmer (1919-2005), founding chair of the Department and scholar of the English Reformation.

Religious Studies Development Fund

Gifts that are not earmarked for specific endowments are applied to our general Development Fund.