Office Hours: John Carter

Matthew Knowles


John Carter, Professor of the Study of the Great Religions of the World and Professor of philosophy and religion as well as Director of Chapel House and the Fund for the Study of the Great Religions of the World, is as close to Colgate as any professor on campus. Of course, teaching at one school for over thirty years will tend to do that. Over this period of time, Professor Carter’s influence on the Religion and Phi­losophy departments helped shaped them into what they are today, and his work at Chapel House has nour­ished the spirits of many people in the Colgate community.

Professor Carter’s education has looked very different from that of most college professors. After gradu­ating from Baylor University in his home state of Texas, Professor Cart­er got married and then enrolled in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky in order to continue a passion for religion that he cultivated in high school. After that, he and his wife traveled to King’s College in Lon­don to receive his Masters in Theol­ogy (M.Th), then finally to Harvard University to receive his Ph.D in 1972. However, what really sparked his interest in studying world reli­gions was a project assigned to him in the final semester of high school.

“My high school English teacher…knew I was thinking about the ministry, and he told me to write on world religions,” Professor Carter said.

For this project, Professor Carter interviewed several recently returned veterans from World War II about the faith of those in Japan. This expe­rience was a major factor in all of the research of East Asian religions Pro­fessor Carter has conducted through­out his career. Professor Carter has even taken multiple “study tours” of Colgate students to Asia as the final part of certain courses, and has ed­ited several books that reflect their experiences. Professor Carter’s most recent book is called In the Com­pany of Friends: Exploring Faith and Understanding with Buddhists and Christians and will be available for purchase by July of this year.

“It proposes an approach to the study of religion that puts an emphasis on friendship…which provides a way of interpreting, I think more subtly and more deep­ly, the religious world view of one’s friends,” Professor Carter said.

Although Professor Carter still teaches a single senior semi­nar course, the majority of his work today lies in his adminis­trative role in Chapel House, a building which is very important to Professor Carter.

“Chapel House is open to anyone who is willing to take the initiative to probe more deeply into themselves and to learn more about religious traditions throughout the world,” Professor Carter said.

After this year, administer­ing Chapel House will become Professor Carter’s primary work on campus, and he will spend the majority of his day in his office there to receive guests.

Professor Carter’s work as a professor of philosophy and re­ligion is best summed up in his description of Colgate’s motto, ‘Deo ac Veritati’.

“The second letter term is ‘ac’…if it were ‘et’, then the motto would simply be For God and Truth, but that ‘ac’ is saying some­thing different. Our motto makers at Colgate were saying that God and Truth are intimately related… so, if it’s for God it’s for Truth, and if it’s for Truth it’s for God, and that little ‘ac’ is pulling them closer together,” Professor John Carter said.

To him, philosophy and re­ligion are inextricable from one another, and he has passed that perspective to every student he has taught at the college.