Retired Faculty

John Barbour taught at St. Olaf 1982-2018. He graduated from Oberlin College and received his Ph.D. in the field of Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago Divinity School. His teaching and research interests center on ethical and theological issues raised in fiction and autobiography, such as the ways these narratives explore the meanings of sin, grace, and community. Barbour served as Religion Department chair (1998–2001), the first Martin Marty Regents Chair in Religion and the Academy (2004–08), and the O.C. and Patricia Boldt Chair in the Humanities (2012–15). He also taught in the Paracollege and the Great Conversation.

Barbour has written many articles and four scholarly books: Tragedy as a Critique of Virtue: The Novel and Ethical Reflection (1984), The Conscience of the Autobiographer: Ethical and Religious Dimensions of Autobiography (1992), Versions of Deconversion: Autobiography and the Loss of Faith (1994), and The Value of Solitude: The Ethics and Spirituality of Aloneness in Autobiography (2004). In 2013 he published Renunciation: A Novel. Barbour currently is writing a book entitled Travel and Transformation: No-Self in Western Buddhist Travel Narratives. He can be contacted at:

Vern Faillettaz taught at St. Olaf 1962–96. Ph.D. Biblical Studies, University of Chicago; B.Th. Luther Seminary; B.A. University of California, Berkeley. His course areas included the Bible, the Gospels, hermeneutics, the Bible and liberation, Islam, and comparative monotheism.

Eric Lund received his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Yale University. His teaching and research areas include History of Christianity, Medieval and Early Modern Piety & Spirituality, History of Lutheranism, and the Historical Interactions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He co-edited a book on William Tyndale (1988), edited “Documents from the History of Lutheranism” (Fortress 2002), and published “Seventeenth Century Lutheran Meditations and Hymns” (Paulist Press series on Classics of Western Spirituality 2011). In retirement he has published a two-volume Documentary “History of Lutheranism” (Fortress, 2017), several articles on German church history, and an annotated edition of Martin Luther’s “A Simple Way to Pray” (Fortress, 2017).

William Poehlman grew up in Texas and attended Texas Lutheran College. Then he started at Luther Seminary, dropping out for one year in Germany and earning a BD in 1968. Harvard University gave him five years and a Ph.D. in New Testament and Christian origins; he gave it a dissertation on early Christian wisdom in the Teachings of Sylvanus. Art and archaeology interests led him to digs in Israel and Macedonia, while the job market brought him to St. Olaf.

Joseph M. Shaw joined the Religion Department faculty in 1957. He is a graduate of St. Olaf College, Class of 1949. He studied at Luther Theological Seminary from 1949 to 1953, receiving the B. Th. degree in May of 1953. While a student at Luther theological Seminary, he received a Fulbright scholarship for study in Norway, 1951-52. His first book, Pulpit under the Sky: A Life of Hans Nielsen Hauge, was a result of that year of study.

After graduating from Luther Seminary, Shaw went to Princeton Theological Seminary to study New Testament with Dr. Otto A. Piper. With a fellowship from the American Scandinavian Foundation, he and his wife, Mary Virginia, went to Norway for the 1955-56 school year where he continued work on his doctoral dissertation, “The Concept of ‘The People of God’ in Recent Biblical Research.” The Th.D. degree was received in June of 1958. Some years later, the Princeton Theological Seminary Board of Trustees allowed recipients of the Th. D., if they wished, to have the name of the degree changed to Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D. Dr. Shaw was among many who elected to make this change.

During 34 years of teaching in the Department of Religion at St. Olaf, Shaw taught the introductory bible course, church history for a few years, and upper level courses in New Testament. He also taught Greek for a few years and served as acting chairman of the Classical Languages Department the year after Professor Bert Narveson retired, 1964-65. Early in the 1970s, President Sidney Rand asked him to write the centenial history of the College, published in 1974, the centennial year, as History of St. Olaf College 1874-1974.

With colleagues from the College of St. Catherine, Luther College, and St. John’s University, Joseph Shaw became involved in the Christian Humanism project with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities in the late seventies. New courses were added to the curriculum, festivals were presented at the four colleges, and two publications were produced, Readings in Christian Humanism and The Case for Christian Humanism.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Ansgar Sovik in foreign study, Shaw had the opportunity to accompany students abroad on St. Olaf programs. In 1969 he assisted Sovik on the first Rome Interim. He went to Rome to assist Harold Ditmanson in 1974 and led the Rome Interim in 1975. Dr. and Mrs. Shaw supervised the Mideast Semester in 1981-82 and the Mexico Interim in 1983.

Dr. Shaw served as chair of the Religion Department from 1985 to 1988. He retired from teaching in the spring of 1991. Since retirement he has worked on College history projects. He published Dear Old Hill, a book about the St. Olaf campus, in 1992. At the request of the St Olaf Music Department, he wrote The St.Olaf Choir: A Narrative, published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association in 1999 under the title, Bernt Julius Muus; Founder of St.Olaf College. In 2006 St. Olaf College published Shaw’s biography of Thorbjorn Nelson Mohn titled Th. N. Mohn: First President of St. Olaf College. At the present time, Dr. Shaw is completing a history of the St. Olaf College Department of Religion and continuing his work on a biography of John Nathan Kildahl, second president of St. Olaf College.

Gary Stansell received his Dr.Theol. degree from the Ruprecht-Karl University in Heidelberg, Germany. He teaches in the area of Biblical Studies, with particular interest in the Old Testament, the Bible and Literature, and problems related to Antisemitism and Jewish-Christian Dialogue. His professional and scholarly interests include translating German commentaries, studying the formation of prophetic books, as well as the anthropology of the Mediterranean world.