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Looking Back: Department News from the Past

NC State's belltower near Holladay Hall

1970/71: During the regular academic year a total of 2,038 students enroll in the department’s courses. This is a dramatic increase from the previous year’s record enrollments of 1,508. The number of students with a declared major in philosophy increases from 28 to 31. Visiting speakers include Antony Flew (University of Keele, England), Gail Marshall (Virginia Law School), and Kai Nielsen (University of Calgary, Canada).

1980/81: Barbara Levenbook (Ph.D., Arizona) is appointed as assistant professor of philosophy. After a 41-year career at NC State, she retires in 2021. Read more. Maurice Wade, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford, is appointed as a lecturer in philosophy. He completes the Ph.D. and is appointed as an assistant professor in 1982. He resigns in 1983 to take up a position at Trinity College. Tom Regan (Ph.D., Virginia), professor of philosophy, has a one-year fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to write a book entitled The Case for Animal Rights. This book is published by the University of California Press in 1983 and becomes a landmark work in animal rights theory. Peter W. Coxon, a biblical scholar from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, is a Visiting Fulbright Scholar in the department in the spring semester.

1990/91: Joseph Levine (Ph.D., Harvard), associate professor of philosophy and the subject of this newsletter’s Former Faculty Feature, has a one-year fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct research on cognitive science. James C. VanderKam (Ph.D., Harvard), professor of religious studies, publishes The Book of Jubilees (2 volumes, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Peeters, Leuven, 1990). VanderKam also receives NC State’s Outstanding Teacher Award and Alumni Outstanding Research Award. The department’s request to plan a new undergraduate major in Religious Studies (to replace the B.A. in Philosophy with a Concentration in Religious Studies) is approved. The subsequent plan is authorized in August 1993 and the first cohort of eleven majors starts in the spring semester of 1994.

2000/01: A total of 4,142 students enroll in the department’s courses during the regular academic year. Philosophy has 60 declared majors and religious studies has 35. Jason C. Bivins (Ph.D., Indiana) is appointed as assistant professor of religious studies. Bivins is promoted to associate professor in 2004; he serves as associate head of the department from 2005 to 2011; and he is promoted to professor in 2012. Christine M. Pierce (Ph.D., Syracuse), professor of philosophy, publishes Immovable Laws, Irresistible Rights: Natural Law, Moral Rights, and Feminist Ethics (University Press of Kansas, 2001) and Tom Regan (Ph.D., Virginia), professor of philosophy, publishes Defending Animal Rights (University of Illinois Press 2000).

2010/11: The department launches its Student Awards Fund and introduces two awards to honor former departmental leaders: the Philosophy Prize in Honor of Professor Robert S. Bryan and the Religious Studies Prize in Honor of Professor W. Curtis Fitzgerald. In July 2015, as a result of a generous gift from the Bryan family in honor of Professor Robert S. Bryan, head of the department from 1966 to 1989, the Student Awards Fund achieves its initial target of $25,000. This allows for the conversion of the fund into an income-earning endowment that will provide permanent support for student awards in its disciplines, including the Bryan and Fitzgerald prizes. Speakers in philosophy include Karen Bennett (Cornell), Ned Block (NYU), James Drier (Brown), Peter Railton (Michigan) and Mark Richard (Harvard); speakers in religious studies include David Morgan (Duke) and Jennifer Knust (Boston University). In addition to its regular speaker programs, the department hosts two conferences: one on time travel and one to celebrate the work of Tom Regan.