Fellowship aims to advance understanding of religions

When it comes to “walking the talk” about volunteerism and philanthropy, Linda and Dr. Bruce Hutchinson have been up and running for years.

Both are committed to helping their community – and specifically, Queen’s School of Religion – in whatever ways they can. They have worked and volunteered in various capacities at the School, formerly called Queen’s Theological College, when it also served as a training facility for United Church ministers and more recently as it transitioned back under the umbrella of the Faculty of Arts and Science, broadening its focus on religious studies. Last year the Hutchinsons helped establish the QSR Graduate Fellowship with a five-year pledge of support.

“In the current environment, our graduates could be working anywhere in the world,” notes Bruce, a former Associate Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s who, on retirement, served as acting Principal of the Theological College and later chaired its Board of Management during the reintegration period. “Understanding people’s religious backgrounds is increasingly necessary to function in a global setting,” he says. “We hope the new scholarship will help advance research in this important area.”

As a volunteer for 13 years with the Theological College’s field education program, Linda facilitated “integration clusters” where divinity students shared their experiences training in institutional or congregational settings. She also served on the Board of Management and has recently retired from running a Kingston resource centre for The United Church of Canada (UCC).

“While Bruce and I have had a lifetime engagement with the UCC, this scholarship reflects our belief in the importance of interfaith connections,” says Linda. Pointing to the recent explosive growth of interest in studying religions and faiths of all kinds, she adds: “We think this broader interpretation is meeting both students’ and society’s needs.”

The Queen’s School of Religion Graduate Fellowship will be awarded on the basis of academic excellence to master’s students in any area of Religious Studies where a faculty member has the expertise to advise. Because they act as teaching assistants in addition to doing research, graduate students directly affect the quality of undergraduate education as well. By helping award recipients focus on their work rather than having to take on part-time jobs unrelated to their studies, everyone benefits, the Hutchinsons suggest.

“In a university where we are educating students to be citizens of the world, it’s essential that graduates understand the influence of religious traditions in people’s lives,” says Bruce. “We are pleased to support a deeper understanding of all faith traditions through graduate students’ research, and we invite others to join us.”

Every year, current and retired staff and faculty members volunteer their time and leadership to encourage their colleagues’ participation in the Campus Community Appeal. The appeal has a direct impact across campus, supporting programs and initiatives that enrich the teaching and learning environment. Gifts are designated to almost any area of need: from student assistance to mental health and wellness, faculty programs, the library, archives, community outreach and more.