He is among 269 outstanding individuals who were announced as new fellows of the prestigious Academy on Wednesday. He is elected under the category of the study of religion.
Olupona is a renowned Professor of African Religious Traditions, with a joint appointment as Professor of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Religion at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University, Cambridge.
Academy President David W. Oxtoby and Chair of the Board of Directors Nancy C. Andrews made the announcement of the 2023 list.
The new members are grouped into thirty-one sections, organized within five classes, in which they were elected.
In the letter appointing Prof. Olupona which was jointly signed by the Academy President and the Board Chair, the don was warmly welcomed as a new member.
“Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together, as expressed in our charter, ‘to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.’ Our work has helped set the direction of research and analysis in science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy, education, the humanities, and the arts.
“With your election, you join the company of notable members – from our earliest members John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Maria Mitchell, and Alexander Graham Bell.
“Other distinguished members have included Margaret Mead, Jonas Salk, Barbara McClintock, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, John Hope Franklin, Georgia O’Keeffe, E. O. Wilson, Madeleine Albright, and Colin Powell.
“Our current members represent today’s innovative thinkers in every field and profession, including more than two hundred and fifty Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners,” the letter informed.
“This is a singular honor in recognition of your outstanding contributions to your discipline and to society at large, and one that is richly deserved. With a history dating back to its establishment by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and others, the Academy has a long and illustrious tradition of projects and studies that advance the public good. I am sure that with you as one of its new members the American Academy will continue in the best way possible its research on the emerging problems that face our society today.
“Although those challenges are perhaps somewhat different from those addressed by the 18th-century founders, I know that you will bring to your membership the same penetrating independent insight and analysis those scholars epitomized and envisioned many years ago,” Gay said in the letter.
Prof. Jacob Kehinde Olupona who joined the Faculty of Divinity and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2006 was born on February 5, 1951 in Ondo State, Nigeria. He obtained his B.A., Religious Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1975); M.A., History of Religions, Boston University, Boston (1981), and PhD, History of Religions, Boston University, Boston (1983).
He has held many academic appointments both locally and internationally such as 1987-90, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), Department of Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria; 1983-86, Lecturer (Assistant Professor), Department of Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria; 2006- Chair, Harvard University Committee on African Studies 2006- Professor of African and African-American Studies, Faculty of Arts & Sciences Professor of African Religious Traditions, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University; 2000 – 2005, Director African-American and African Studies, University of California, Davis; 1999 Edna Gene and Jordan Davidson Chair in the Humanities, Florida International University, Miami, FL. (Visiting Fall of 1999).
In 1998-2000 he was Director, Religious Studies Program, University of California, Davis; 1995-2006 Professor, African-American and African Studies, University of California, Davis; 1991-95 Associate Professor, African and African-American Studies, University of California, Davis; 1993 Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Fall semester) among others.
Prof Olupona has published many books, academic journals and articles among which are ‘Òrìsà Devotion as World Religion: The Globalization of Yorùbá Religious Culture‘ (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008) and ‘City of 201 Gods: Ilé-Ifè in Time, Space, and the Imagination‘ (University of California Press, 2011).
The Induction is billed to take place at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge.