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Cornel West returns home

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 11/23/2011, 11:42 a.m.
Cornel West returns home

Cornel West has given up the trees, ivy, and seclusion of New Jersey for the urban surroundings of New York City.

The professor, scholar and activist is retiring from Princeton University, where he was the Class of 1943 University Professor, and has decided to return to the Union Theological Seminary in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. West taught at the school from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.

The Union Theological Seminary said West will be a Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practices and will teach courses ranging from philosophy and theology to social change.

"Union is a place where Cornel West's view of the world is in our life blood. Historically, Union has inspired strong public voices which speak to our nation's ills and ideals-be they protests against war, poverty, racism, sexism, or other societal scourges," said Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, in a statement. "Some call Cornel West this generation's Reinhold Niebuhr (a legendary Union Professor), but I think he's in a class by himself. Cornel is, quite simply, the leading public theologian of our age."

Jones was a graduate student of West's at Yale University in the 1980s.

"I am overjoyed and completely excited to hear Dr. West is coming to Union," said current student Daniel J. Rohrer, who's working on a Master of Divinity and PhD in Christian Social Ethics at the school. "Dr. West is somebody who is really in touch with America and its religious and public policies. His teaching will help us be more effective leaders in our churches and communities."

Union has a pretty good pedigree in terms of faculty members with included people like Ray Brown, Paul Tillich, and Niebuhr, who is currently a theological adjunct to Columbia University (which sits across the street from the school).

West helped build the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University-a leading African American studies center in the United States. He also taught at Harvard University, but left in 2002 after a much-publicized dispute with then-President Lawrence Summers. He is leaving Princeton on good terms and will remain an emeritus professor at the institution.