Charles H. Townes Graduate Student Fellowship
in Theology and Science
Robert John Russell
Founder and Director
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It is with great pleasure that I announce the naming of the CTNS Graduate Student Fellowship in Theology and Science in honor of Charles H. Townes. It is extremely rare for even a distinguished scientist, with a list of accolades a football-field-long, to accomplish something that changes the course of civilization. Yet Charlie Townes has done so with his participation in the discovery of the maser and the laser. From CD-players and bar-code scanners to cataract and cancer surgery and dentistry without anesthetics, from national missile defense and controlled nuclear fusion to optical fibers and lunar laser ranging, from laser desk-top printers to multimedia laser light shows, from identity holograms on credit cards to floating navigational holograms used by airplane pilots, the laser has forever changed the entire landscape of our world.
But what is of even greater importance for us, gathered here today to celebrate academic excellence in theology and science at the Graduate Theological Union, is that for years Charlie has been a champion of the intellectual validity and ethical voice of religion to an often skeptical and even dismissive scientific community. Charlie has been unremittingly outspoken in his conviction that science and religion are convergent rather than in conflict or in isolated realms. In particular, science should not be co-opted into the service of atheism and materialism but instead celebrated as a lasting partner with religion in service to the wider culture. Charlie has consistently voiced his conviction on an international stage. As a Nobel laureate in physics with over two dozen honorary degrees and as a member of such distinguished societies as the National Academy of Science and the Pontifical Academy of Science, Charlie represents the world of theological education in places where we could never go and to people who would never listen to us even if we got there. He has given energy, vision, and financial support to institutions seeking to bring science and religion into responsible and respectful dialogue, and he has addressed international audiences from Bangalore to UNESCO with the message that science can be a partner with religion in the quest for the ultimate meaning of life.
As Founder and Director of CTNS I am particularly honored to acknowledge and thank Charlie Townes for his two decades of faithful service on the CTNS Board of Directors. He has generously given of his wisdom, encouragement and support to the Board as a whole and to me personally as we have worked to expand the CTNS programs of research, teaching and public service in support of our mission: to sponsor the creative mutual interaction between theology and science. He was also an active participant in our international program of public outreach, “Science and the Spiritual Quest.” The CTNS and GTU communities are truly blessed that one of our colleagues moves so creatively between the theological academy into the austere turf of physics and cosmology to convey and to embody in his life and values our shared “good news” of hope and Christian faith.
It is therefore entirely fitting that the CTNS Board of Directors has voted unanimously to name the Graduate Student Fellowship in honor of Charlie H. Townes. The purpose of the Fellowship is to publicly recognize and offer modest financial support to doctoral students who have demonstrated the clear ability to do highly promising research on issues related to theology and science. The selection is based on academic excellence, and students in the GTU doctoral program whose research focuses on theology and science are eligible to apply. With the Fellowship carrying his name, its recipients will be inspired by Charlie’s pioneering leadership in scientific research and his internationally recognized voice for the creative interaction between science and religion.