Dr. Curtis Johnson was named the Delaplaine Professor of Humanities in which he will study the impact of secularization on American Society and hold this position through August 2023.
The donors for the professorship are George and Bettie Delaplaine in whose honor the professorship is named after. The funds raised by those supporting the professorship were matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Johnson grew up in Western Minnesota and came to the Mount in 1984. He is a specialist in 19th century social and religious history. Johnson added, “One of the reasons I came to the Mount was that it was an institution that took religious ideas seriously. As an ecumenical Christian, I found the Mount’s openness to discussing religious ideas and history very appealing.”
As a professor at the Mount, Johnson has done numerous research projects. He began his current research project in 2006 and received sabbaticals in 2009 and 2018 that helped him pursue his study of the 19th century American religion.
Johnson will have a book published by the University of Tennessee Press this fall named, The Power of Mammon: The Market, Secularization, New York Baptists, 1790-1922. The book will argue the impact of the market and its related distractions as the most important factor secularizing Baptists and their congregation in the long 19th century.
As Johnson steps into this new position, he has done some research on the trends away from religion and towards secularization being strongest among Generation Z. He has noticed this change at the Mount as most first-year students do not identify as Catholics. As a Delaplaine professor, he plans to tackle this research with this question: how should Mount Saint Mary’s, a Catholic institution, respond to its rapidly-changing student religious demographic?
Provost Boyd Creasman stated, “Dr. Curtis Johnson being named as the Delaplaine Professor of Humanities is a sign of his stature as a distinguished faculty member here at the Mount. He is an impressive scholar, having published two books on religion in American society, with a third book forthcoming.”
Dr. Johnson will spend his next two summers working with other faculty to study how the Mount should respond to the increasing secularization among students. This study will include how the Mount might modify the curriculum in response to new incoming students.