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Department of Religious Studies records

Identifier: RG06.0032.001

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Scope and Contents

The records of the Dept. of Religious Studies (founded as the School of Religion) date from 1875 to the present (bulk, 1921- ) and measure about 13.5 linear feet. They are arranged in 11 series: Minutes, Annual Reports, Correspondence, Board Rosters, Brochures and Publications, Student Enrollment, Historical, Photographs, Reviews, Gifts, and Administrative.Series I, Minutes (1925- ), includes meeting minutes of the governing board.


  • Creation: 1875-

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical or Historical Information

The School of Religion at the University of Iowa was formally organized and incorporated in 1927 as the first program of its kind in the nation to function at a tax-supported state university. While it is impossible to determine how the idea for such a program first arose, University leaders had regarded religion as an integral part of a student's life as early as the University's founding in 1847. In 1875, the trustees of the University endorsed mandatory attendance at daily chapel services, an action voided 23 years later by the faculty in response to legal concerns expressed by critics. Nonetheless, religion continued to play a central role in the lives of many students. The Religious Education Committee, organized in the wake of the abolition of daily chapel services, established monthly programs, an activity which continued until the 1950's.

In 1921, the chairman of the committee, Clarence W. Case, called an informal meeting of religious leaders of Iowa City. The topic of discussion was how religion could take its place alongside science and be taught in a scholarly manner at the University. That spring, a plan for a School of Religion was presented to University President Walter A. Jessup, a program which would be established on "separate foundations affiliated with the University." Following numerous revisions to the plan, the State Board of Education approved the proposal on May 22, 1924. A grant of $35,000 from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1926 ensured financial support of the fledgling school for its first three years.

With the selection of Dr. Matthew Willard Lampe as its first director, the University announced the new School of Religion to the state in a University Bulletin on August 27, 1927:

"The School of Religion represents a venture into new territory, sponsored by many University and Religious leaders who have high hopes of its success. It is an unusual recognition of the important place which the study and practice of religion must hold in the adequate system of Education."

In its early years, the School offered courses of study in Catholicism, Judaism and Christian Protestantism. By the mid-1960s, course offerings were expanded to include the study and interpretation of other major world religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. In 2002 the program was renamed the Department of Religious Studies as part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Further information about the history of the School of Religion may be obtained by consulting the additional materials listed below.

David McCartney, 2003


13.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Physical Access Requirements

The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, usecoll Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials

Method of Acquisition

Materials in this collection were transferred to the University Archives from the Department of Religious Studies (formerly School of Religion) at various times.

Related Materials

Papers of Marcus Bach (MsC 560)

Papers of George Forell (RG 99.0170)

Papers of M. Willard Lampe (RG 99.0171)

Papers of Sidney Mead (RG 99.0167)

Papers of Leo Schwarz (RG 99.0173)

Papers of Robert Welch (RG 99.0174)

David McCartney, 2003
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242