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Bridgebuilder Award Given to Religion Scholar

Loyola Marymount University bestowed its Doshi Family Bridgebuilder award Nov. 7 on author and religion scholar Huston Smith. Smith told the audience in LMU’s Ahmanson Auditorium that he was particularly pleased and impressed with the name of the award.

Doshi Award recipient Huston Smith“It tells you something, bridgebuilder; you chose a word loaded with significance,” Smith said. Building bridges “is what life is all about,” he said. 

Smith, 91, gave a brief talk, then answered written questions for nearly an hour. His interaction with the audience was tinged with the humor and affection, as well as the reverence, accorded a distinguished professor in a classroom. Smith’s answers reflected his decades of experience, including an experiment with LSD and meetings with famous people.

Smith is among the preeminent religious studies scholars in the United States. His work, “The Religions of Man,” later revised and retitled “The World's Religions,” has sold more than two million copies and remains a standard introduction to comparative religion. Smith was a professor of philosophy at MIT from 1958 to 1973. Smith then accepted the post of Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Syracuse University. He retired in 1983 but remains professor emeritus at Syracuse. He lives near Berkeley, Calif., where he is Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at UC Berkeley.

In 1996 Bill Moyers devoted a five-part PBS special to Smith's life and work: “The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith.” Smith has produced three series for public television: “The Religions of Man,” “The Search for America,” and (with Arthur Compton) “Science and Human Responsibility.” His films on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism have all won awards at international film festivals. His latest DVD release is “The Roots of Fundamentalism: A Conversation with Huston Smith and Phil Cousineau.”

The Doshi Family Bridgebuilder Award, named for benefactors Navin and Pratima Doshi, is given annually to honor an individual or organization dedicated to fostering understanding between cultures, peoples and disciplines. Past recipients are: humanitarian and author Greg Mortenson; Zen master, poet, peace advocate Thich Nhat Hanh; music director Zubin Mehta; and author, lecturer and doctor of internal medicine Deepak Chopra.

Posted Nov. 17, 2010