“It’s like every professor’s dream coming true,” BR columnist Marcus Borg commented upon receiving a check dated December 25 for $1.5 million. The gift, from a Texas inventor, together with matching funds from Oregon State University, will be used to endow a chair of religious studies for Borg at that institution.

Borg is the author of Jesus: A New Vision (Harper & Row, 1987) and a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars whose new edition of the Gospels, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, was published late last year by Macmillan. The words of Jesus appear in four colors in this controversial publication, representing the scholars’ judgement about their authenticity. Borg profiled this project in “What Did Jesus Really Say?” BR 05:05.

The gift’s donor, Al Hundere, is a 1938 engineering graduate of Oregon State and had previously contributed $50,000 to the school after reading an article about Borg’s work on the historical Jesus. The two met last spring. However, the $1.5 million donation was a surprise resulting from a suggestion by the university’s development office.

In addition to creating the Hundere Chair of Religious Studies for Borg, the gift will be used to hire a full-time instructor; fund a program on ethics, science and the environment; sponsor lectures and conferences; and provide Borg with “a nice raise” that will allow him to continue studying the historical aspects of Jesus and how that knowledge pertains to society today.