Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan 1923-2006

views updated

Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan 1923-2006
(Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Jr.)


See index for CA sketch: Born December 17, 1923, in Akron, OH; died of lung cancer, May 13, 2006, in Hamden, CT. Historian, minister, educator, and author. Pelikan was a prominent scholar of the history of Christianity and a former Yale University professor. The son of immigrants from what are now Slovakia and Serbia, he had a father who was a Lutheran bishop. Pelikan grew up in an intellectual and spiritual atmosphere, learning to speak three languages as a boy and eventually becoming fluent in ten. He was also a talented pianist who considered pursuing music as a career; however, he opted instead to study at Concordia Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago, receiving a B.D. from the former and a Ph.D. from the latter, both in 1946. Ordained in the Lutheran Church, he taught at Valparaiso University in the late 1940s, then at Concordia for four years and the University of Chicago from 1953 to 1962. Pelikan settled in at Yale in 1962, becoming Sterling Professor of History and Religious Studies in 1972 and serving as dean in the mid-1970s. He was also a former chair of Medieval studies, director of the division of humanities, and dean of the Graduate School. As a scholar, Pelikan wrote on a wide range of subjects concerning Christianity, and his texts included works for scholars and more popular titles aimed at general audiences; over the years, his philosophy transitioned from a Lutheran perspective to end with the Orthodox Church of America. Among his works are The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (1959), which won the Abingdon Award, the ambitious, five-volume The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (1971-89), Bach among the Theologians (1986), The Illustrated Jesus through the Ages (1997), and Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution (2004). Publishing over forty books in his lifetime, he was also a former president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founding chair of the Council of Scholars at the Library of Congress, and chair, from 2003 to 2004, of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Pelikan left Yale in 1996, and his final career positions included a professorship at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School from 1998 to 2001, and an appointment as distinguished visiting scholar at the Library of Congress from 2001 to 2002. Among his many awards for his scholarship were the 1971 John Gilamry Shea Prize from the American Catholic Historical Association, the Jefferson Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the 2004 Kluge Prize from the Library of Congress.



Chicago Tribune, May 16, 2006, section 2, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2006, p. B11.

Times (London, England), May 23, 2006, p. 67.

Washington Post, May 17, 2006, p. B6.