Timothy Beal, the Florence Harkness Professor of Religion, will be honored as a Case Western Reserve University Distinguished University Professor during convocation on Aug. 25 for his preeminent research, leadership, and commitment to students.
Beal is a “model humanist,” according to Joy K. Ward, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. As an international expert in Biblical literature, religion in America, critical theory, and religion in culture, Beal has 17 published monographs, 43 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and nine single-authored books. He has been awarded 17 prestigious and competitive national grants and fellowships on a scale rarely encountered in the humanities.
In addition to being a prominent scholar, Beal has held many roles at CWRU since he arrived in 1999. He served as director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, chair of the Department of Religious Studies, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and is now director of h.lab and co-PI for the Humanities in Leadership Learning Series.
As the director of the university’s new h.lab, Beal uses the coding skills he’s learned to help humanities students and scholars bring their research alive in new ways through hands-on access to emerging computational technologies in order to foster technological innovation in the humanities.
“I’m a bit of an evangelist,” he said. “I think we in the humanities need to get our hands dirty and play with things without a particular goal in mind, more like an artist might approach it.”
Beal’s vast knowledge and passion for research resonate with undergraduate and graduate students alike. He delivers some of the most popular courses in the College of Arts and Sciences and has been recognized by students many times for his superior teaching.
Recently, Beal has shifted into what he considers to be his “second life,” focusing on a new passion: computational methods and coding, sometimes referred to as “digital humanities.” Five years ago, he started learning to code using Python, and when this skill uncovered a plethora of questions to be answered in his field, he knew he’d found his next project.
“It’s been really transformative for me,” he said. “It opened up research questions that I wouldn’t have thought about had I not started playing with these new tools.”
Of all of his accomplishments, Beal said he is most proud that his research has both been able to “move the academic field forward and raise new questions,” while speaking to a broader, public audience; his work has been published in outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Century and The Huffington Post.
“Tim’s scholarship has had significant national and international influence, including beyond the field of religious studies,” Ward said. “He has helped to make the humanities more visible, both on campus and beyond.”
Beal noted that it’s important to pay attention to balance and have a life outside of academia, referencing a quote from Irish poet David Whyte: “The antidote to exhaustion is not rest. The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
“I need to do things that I feel wholeheartedly,” he said. “I get energy from that.”