Pugh, Copeland to be named Distinguished University Professors
The professorship honors senior full professors for their career achievements in teaching, scholarship, leadership and service to Elon.
Jeffrey C. Pugh, Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies, and David A. Copeland, A.J. Fletcher Professor and professor of communications, will be honored as Elon’s fifth and sixth Distinguished University Professors. The announcement of the honor was made by President Leo M. Lambert at his opening address during Elon’s planning week on Aug. 21. The two will be invested with the professorships during ceremonies later this year.
The Distinguished University Professorship is bestowed upon occasion to senior faculty members, honoring their teaching, scholarship, leadership and service to the Elon University community. The board of trustees created the professorship in 2001 and a faculty committee solicits nominations and recommends recipients of the honor to the president.
Pugh, an influential teacher and mentor, joined Elon’s faculty in 1986 after earning his master of divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., and a master’s degree and doctorate in theological and religious studies from Drew University Graduate School in Madison, New Jersey. His graduate research focused on systematic and historical theology and he has continued that work during his career at Elon.
Pugh’s ambitious research has resulted in six books, ranging from Nazi era theologians Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his work in religion and science. His most recent book, “The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the End Times: Theology After You’ve Been Left Behind,” was published by Fortress Press in 2016 as part of a series sponsored by the popular Homebrewed Christianity podcast that takes a unique approach to helping delve into key Christian concepts, figures and ideas. He has also made numerous presentations at professional meetings and conferences, written articles, book chapters and book reviews for various publications, and served eight years as a member of the board of directors of the International Bonhoeffer Society.
During his more than three decades at Elon, Pugh served on the planning committee for the Elon Commitment strategic plan, served two terms as chair of the Department of Religious Studies, and was a founding faculty member and mentor of the Service Learning Community. He helped develop and pilot the first global studies courses, which later became part of Elon’s Core Curriculum. A renowned scholar, Pugh received Elon’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000. In 2006 he was named Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies, and in 2010 he received the university’s Distinguished Scholar Award.
Copeland joined Elon’s School of Communications in 2001 as the A.J. Fletcher Professor and serves as program director for Elon’s Master of Arts in Interactive Media program. In that role, he has shaped the Interactive Media graduate program as an immersive, hands-on learning experience that prepares students to thrive in the continually evolving digital media field.
A prolific media historian, Copeland has edited an eight-volume series on American war reporting and written 12 books. Among his latest works are “The News Media: A Documentary History” and “The Media’s Role in Defining the Nation: The Active Voice.” He was honored in 2010 with the American Journalism Historians Association’s lifetime achievement award, the highest honor the association bestows upon its members. He received Elon’s Distinguished Scholar Award in 2006 and in 2012 he received the university’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Copeland has a master’s degree in divinity and a master’s degree in church history from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and a doctorate in mass communications research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before coming to Elon, he taught at Emory & Henry College, where the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching named him the Virginia Professor of the Year in 1998. He worked for seven years in North Carolina as a reporter, photographer, sports editor and news editor for daily and weekly newspapers.
Distinguished University Professors traditionally deliver an address at their investiture ceremonies and are presented with a stole to be worn with academic regalia that is embroidered with gold thread and features the university’s seal and clusters of oak leaves and acorns.
The four other Distinguished University Professors are Maude Sharpe Powell Professor Emeritus of Philosophy John Sullivan (2002), J. Earl Danieley Professor of Sociology Tom Henricks (2003), Maude Sharpe Powell Professor Emeritus of English Russell Gill (2006) and Watts-Thompson Professor of Human Service Studies Pamela M. Kiser (2010).