Eakin Celebration

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine; Pastor Alex Witt, ’14; Dr. Doug Winiarski; Frances Eakin; Dr. Jane Geaney; Dr. J. Scott Hudgins, R’85; and Dr. Stephanie Cobb.

Eakin Celebration Launches Student Fellowships

February 7, 2023

A spiral notebook filled with 117 pages of handwritten notes from Dr. Frank E. Eakin’s Bible as Literature course has become a treasured resource and the first reference Pastor Alex Witt, ’14, reaches for as she prepares sermons and pastoral writings. Dr. J. Scott Hudgins, R’85, holds dear a handwritten letter from Dr. Eakin offering wisdom and encouragement during a time of doubt.  

Witt and Hudgins, both former students of Dr. Eakin, joined the Eakin Celebration, hosted by the Department of Religious Studies, to offer reflections on the impact of Dr. Eakin’s teaching and mentorship. The evening featured Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, one of the world’s leading authorities in the fields to which Dr. Eakin devoted his life: the study of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish-Christian dialogue.

University leaders, faculty colleagues, staff, students, alumni, and friends filled the Jepson Alumni Center to celebrate the life and career of the University of Richmond’s longest tenured professor Dr. Frank E. Eakin Jr. and the launch of the Frank E. Eakin Jr. Fund.

Mrs. Frances Eakin established the Frank E. Eakin Jr. Fund in 2021 to honor her husband’s six-decade career at the University of Richmond, contributions to the Department of Religious Studies, passion for teaching, and dedication to his students. The fund supports the Frank E. Eakin Jr. Fellowships, which provides financial support for UR students engaged in research, fieldwork, travel, and other experiences that enhance their coursework in the academic study of religion.  


“Each annual class of three to five students selected as Eakin Fellows will receive special funding to engage in travel, research, fieldwork, and other experiences that expand and deepen their understanding of the powerful role of religion in our world,” described Dr. Doug Winiarski, professor of religious studies.

For nearly six decades — an extraordinary 55 years — Dr. Eakin was the cornerstone of the Department of Religious Studies. He was a gifted teacher, beloved by hundreds — if not thousands — of students for his caring teaching style and effective mentorship. 

Dr. Eakin joined the Religion Department in 1966. He was appointed the Camp Professor of Bible in 1982, the Solon B. Cousins Professor of Religion in 1984, and the inaugural Weinstein-Rosenthal Professor of Jewish and Christian Studies in 1987. Dr. Eakin served as the chair of the Department of Religion from 1978 until 2001. Under his steady leadership, the department grew from three to seven faculty members and evolved from its original emphasis on Baptist theological studies to encompass the academic study of religion as a humanistic discipline. In addition to advising Religious Studies majors, Dr. Eakin mentored dozens of students each year through his work as the coordinator of the Master of Liberal Studies Program in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.