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Wilmette Institute display at American Academy of Religion (AAR) Conference

Dec 30, 2022
Photo showing a part of the display of Baha'i books and WI fliers at the American Academy of Religion Conference.

by Robert Stockman

The Wilmette Institute had a display in the exhibit hall of the American Academy of Religion November 18-22, 2022, in Denver, CO. The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is a professional scholarly organization for university students, professors, journalists, clergy, and others who study religion. The AAR annual meeting typically is attended by over 10,000 people and several thousand presentations on every imaginable aspect of religion are made during the conference.

The exhibit hall has displays from over 100 publishers and other religion-related businesses and organizations, and that was where the Wilmette Institute had its booth. The contents of the exhibit had two foci: the programs the Wilmette Institute is now offering, and a sample of Bahá’í scripture and current scholarship, to impress visitors with the depth and breadth of published materials about the Faith. As a result of a steady stream of visitors, people took some 100 fliers about Wilmette Institute programs and about new books suitable for classroom use, as well as copies of The Bahá’ís magazine and the Peace Statement. The booth also provided an opportunity to encounter old contacts and make new friends.

A Bahá’í display has been a regular presence at the AAR since 1986 and may be one reason that the Faith is now appearing in more religious studies publications, and with more accurate information than previously.


Robert Stockman, ThD

WI Dean, Bahá’í History, Texts and Tenets

I have had a passion for researching and teaching about the Bahá’í Faith for more than half of my life. My fascination with American Bahá’í history and with the first American Bahá’í, Thornton Chase, caused me, in 1980, to switch my academic field from planetary science to history of religion in the United States. As I was finishing my doctorate in that field at Harvard University in 1990, I drew up plans to create a Bahá’í Studies institute that would offer courses, encourage research, and publish. Instead, I was hired by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to start a research office at our national Bahá’í headquarters in Wilmette, Illinois. Some of the responsibilities of the research office led to the creation of the Wilmette Institute, which ​focuses on most of the tasks of the institute I originally conceived. Meanwhile, I have also remained involved in academia, teaching religious studies part time at DePaul University in Chicago and currently at Indiana University South Bend, just a mile from home. I have also published four books on aspects of Bahá’í history (including a biography of Thornton Chase) and one introductory textbook on the Faith. Listen to Robert’s interview on ‘A Bahá’í Perspective’ podcastSee Faculty Bio


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