The Legacy of Otto Maduro
Remembering the 21-year faculty veteran, who passed away on May 9.
MADISON, N.J.—Otto Maduro, professor of world Christianity and Latin American Christianity at Drew University’s Theological School, passed away on May 9 at the age of 68. Maduro, who joined the Drew faculty in 1992, was known as a prolific author and multilingual teacher in his public life, and as a gracious and kind individual by those who knew him personally. His professional acclaim extended beyond the university through his many guest lectures and visiting professorships, as well as his recent service as the first-ever Hispanic president of the American Academy of Religion.
“It has been my great honor to serve as dean to a scholar of such significance and a person of such gentleness,” said Jeffrey Kuan, dean of the Theological School. “We have lost a great theologian and a great friend.”
More than 250 of Maduro’s current and former students and colleagues echoed Kuan’s praise by posting their remembrances on an online tribute page.
Maduro was born in Venezuela in 1945. He earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, before coming to the United States in 1987. His life’s work includes over a hundred articles published in a dozen languages on five continents, and five books in five languages—many of which address his scholarly interest in how religion relates to the liberation of oppressed groups. Much of his work also tackled wider issues of peace, social and ecological justice, epistemologies and sexualities.
According to Laurel Kearns, associate professor of sociology of religion, Maduro’s scholarship and passion for justice earned him his global reputation.
“I had the sense that we had a prophet among us,” she said. “Otto was willing to speak truth to power and, in doing so, called us to justice.”
Maduro’s widespread prominence took him around the nation and world as a visiting professor. Among many other institutions, he taught at the USC School of Religion, Maryknoll School of Theology, Union Theological Seminary, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Notre Dame, Candler School of Theology and at his alma mater in Belgium.
His status as a globally recognized scholar of religion was reaffirmed as recently as March 2013, when he was featured on an NPR broadcast on Pope Francis’ historic election.
In addition to his international repute, Kearns said he was also a devoted and integral member of the Drew community. His legacy at the university lives on through the Hispanic D.Min. program and the Hispanic Institute of Theology, which he co-founded in the late 1990s.
Maduro was also a past winner of the Will Herberg Distinguished Professor Award from Drew’s Graduate Students’ Association as well as the prize for teaching excellence awarded by the Graduate Division of Religion.
A service in honor of his retirement was held in Seminary Hall’s Craig Chapel last week. Photos from that event have been published on the university’s Facebook page as a tribute to the late professor. A memorial service was held on Tuesday, May 14, at 2:00 p.m. in the Craig Chapel at Seminary Hall on Drew’s Madison campus.
The Fund for Hispanic Latina/o Scholars and Ministry (Fondo Para Academicos y Ministerios Hispanos Latina/os) has been established at Drew to commemorate Maduro’s legacy. To make a gift in his memory, please visit this page or call the Office of Advancement at (973) 408-3644.–Michael Bressman ‘06
For more on Otto Maduro’s legacy, please see Drew Magazine’s 2008 article on his work with Newark churches and his interview with the American Academy of Religion.