Fred Kniss is an EMU alum (BA ‘79) and has served as provost of EMU since July 1, 2009. Prior to that, he was Professor and Chair of Sociology at Loyola University Chicago, where he also founded and directed the McNamara Center for the Social Study of Religion and served for one year as Interim Dean of the Graduate School. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1992. His research has examined new immigrant religion, religious change and conflict, faith-based international relief and development organizations, and the so-called “culture wars.” He is co-author of Sacred Assemblies and Civic Engagement: How Religion Matters for America’s Newest Immigrants. He has also published a variety of articles and chapters on religious and cultural change, and is the author of Disquiet in the Land, a study of cultural conflict among U.S. Mennonites in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has served on the boards of directors of the Association for the Sociology of Religion and the Religious Research Association, and has held editorial positions for the American Journal of Sociology, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and Sociology of Religion. Currently he is President-Elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, and Past-Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Sociology of Religion. He is married to Rosalyn Myers Kniss, a hospital administrator at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He and Rosalyn are parents of two sons, both of whom attended EMU.
CENTER FOR INTERFAITH ENGAGEMENT
After a brief career in counseling children and families, Gretchen returned to EMU in 2008 to help launch the feasibility study for the Center for Interfaith Engagement. Her attraction to relationship building among people of different faith backgrounds stems from a combination of trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus by taking seriously his “Greatest Commandment,” and recognizing that Christians are called to relate to all fellow humans in love. Paired with a love of travel and meeting people from all walks of life in international settings, interfaith work is an excellent fit.
Gretchen’s background in counseling children and families has intensified her belief that interfaith relationship building should begin with children. The Center offered to provide administrative and logistical support to assist an ad hoc group that had begun an Interfaith Peace Camp for children in 2008. The group’s one-week pilot session had met with excellent response and provided a good jumping off point to launch Abraham’s Tent Interfaith Peace Camp through the Center. Working with the Interfaith Peace Camp organizers has provided a natural link to the Muslim and Jewish communities in Harrisonburg where many wonderful new relationships are paving the way for more interfaith programming.
When she hops in her little blue Civic at the end of the day, Gretchen heads off to a 63-acre partnership farm (another story) at the foot of Massanutten Mountain. A huge garden and a herd of grass fed Angus cattle go a long way in providing food and “entertainment.” Two dogs, a cat and a very old turtle are also family members. In the winter when the green beans are on the shelf and the berries and corn are in the freezer, Gretchen loves to spend her free time cooking, knitting and reading.
Gretchen earned a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in counseling from EMU and sandwiched in between raising three children with husband, Robert, worked here in communications and as support staff in the Social Work and Sociology Department. A true-blue EMU family, Robert, as well as the two oldest Maust offspring, Adam and Amanda, have all graduated from EMU. Annika, an elementary education major, currently attends EMU.
Love never fails…And now these three remain – faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~ from I Corinthians 13