Scientists look towards the future and pursue innovation while theologians are rooted in the past and seek understanding. While a simplification of the two subjects, certainly these traditionally disparate disciplines are contrasted more than they are compared. Paul Castelfranco, and his late wife Marie, broke with that convention, however, and refused to live in such binary terms as they were intellectually stimulated by both. They “understood that our modern tendency to compartmentalize life distorts the reality human beings face every day,” wrote Allison Coudert (UC Davis Religious Studies Professor and current Castelfranco Chair)i. Throughout his career at UC Davis, Paul worked tirelessly as an accomplished researcher and educator to make substantially significant strides with his work on chlorophyll biosynthesis. His passion for plant biology and chemistry, however, was not rivaled by his active interest in religion. More accurately, the two studies integrated synergistically, in Paul’s perception, as he often acknowledged that science and theological relationships had a lot in common. Adding yet another layer of complexity, Paul was not only a Professor Emeritus for many years, he continues to be a lifelong student even in retirement. This duality of scholarship converges with the Castelfranco Endowed Chair in the History of Christianity. Established in 2002, it seeks to fund, support, promote and inspire wide-ranging theological thinking, inter-faith dialogue and comparative discourse on historical and contemporary religious topics. In practical application, the Endowment has manifested well attended lectures, facilitated notable research and benefited graduate students preparing to transition into teaching. Further, it has enriched the lives of students, faculty and members of the Davis community alike, which underscores the mission of the Endowment itself as well as highlights the dynamic personalities of Paul and Marie Castelfranco. Their legacy, of fluid and forward thinking, endures in a very real and tangible way here at UC Davis.
i Allison Coudert, Religion, Magic and Science in Early Europe and America (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2011)
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