Established in 2006 by the Board of Regents to recognize long-time servants of the College who are distinguished for their teaching, professional work, and service to the college and community, this chair honors two legendary members of the St. Olaf music department: Oscar R. Overby ’21, who taught, composed, directed, and performed music from 1921 to 1950, and soprano Gertrude Boe Overby ’23, who taught voice and sang solos with the St. Olaf choir from 1930 through 1952. Samiha Peterson, Professor Emerita of Sociology/Anthropology was the first to hold this appointment. She was followed by Wendell Arneson (Art and Art History), Wendy Allen (Romance Languages-French) and Barbara Reed (Asian Studies and Religion).
Charles Taliaferro came to St. Olaf College in 1985, following completion of his doctorate in philosophy from Brown University and teaching at the University of Massachusetts and Notre Dame. He is the author, co-author or editor of over thirty books, over a hundred articles and book chapters (including 27 co-authored with St. Olaf students). Charles is passionate about working collaboratively with students and colleagues. His research focuses primarily on the philosophy of religion.
He is the Editor in Chief of Open Theology, a journal based in Berlin. He has given lectures at Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Oxford University, Cambridge University, the University of London, and elsewhere. He has been voted ten times by the graduating class at St. Olaf College to deliver the Last Lecture during graduation weekend.