Georgetown’s John L. Esposito Named Baccalaureate Speaker

John L. Esposito, professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University—as well as the founding director of the Alaweed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service and a prolific author—will deliver this year’s Baccalaureate address. Esposito will speak to graduating seniors and their families at the event held 4 p.m. Sunday, May 21, in Packer Church.

“We are so fortunate to have Professor Esposito come to speak at Lehigh in May,” said Professor of Religion Studies and University Chaplain Lloyd Steffen. “He is among America's premiere scholars of Islam, and he has done as much as anyone to inform the English-speaking world about Islam and to promote understanding between Christians and Muslims.”  

As University Chaplain, Steffen is charged with leading the Baccalaureate program, which includes outstanding choral music and a presentation or “farewell address” delivered to graduating seniors by a person of high distinction.  The original Baccalaureate ceremony was held at Oxford University and dates back to the 14th century.

“Our Baccalaureate tradition at Lehigh has been to bring to campus a person of noteworthy achievement to address our graduating students and their families, and Professor Esposito certainly meets our criterion of high distinction,” Steffen said. “We’re delighted that he has agreed to be with us to share his insights and understanding at this important moment in our students’ lives.”

The former Loyola Professor of Middle East Studies at Holy Cross, Esposito is the past president of the American Academy of Religion and Middle East Studies Association of North America. He served as consultant to the U.S. Department of State and other agencies, European and Asian governments, corporations, universities, and media worldwide, and as ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations. He was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders and E. C. European Network of Experts on De-Radicalisation.

He has written more than 45 books, including The Future of Islam, Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed), Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, Islam and Politics; Makers of Contemporary Islam and Islam and Democracy (with John O. Voll). His books and articles have been translated into more than 35 languages.

Esposito is the current editor-in-chief of Oxford Islamic Studies Online and the series editor of the Oxford Library of Islamic Studies. He previously served as editor-in-chief of the six-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, the four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, the Oxford History of Islam, the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, and the three-volume Islamic World: Past and Present.

Widely sought for his insightful commentary, his interviews and articles in national and international media include coverage in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Economist, the Guardian, the Times of London, and major network and cable news outlets in the U.S. and abroad.

He has received honorary doctorates from St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, the University of Sarajevo, University of Florida and Immaculata University and has been awarded the American Academy of Religion’s Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion, Pakistan’s Quaid-i-Azzam Award for Outstanding Contributions in Islamic Studies, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service Outstanding Teacher Award and Georgetown’s Career Research Achievement Award.


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