“Quintessential Professor” Reiff Receives DeFriece Award

Posted by Rachael Wilbur
Professor Joseph Reiff was presented the Defriece Award at the 2019 Commencement Ceremony on May 11 by Professor Kathleen Chamberlain for his outstanding service over his many years at Emory & Henry College.

Joseph T. Reiff, professor of Religion and long-time faculty member of Emory & Henry College, received the DeFriece Award on Saturday, May 11 at the 2019 Commencement Ceremony. The William and Martha DeFriece Award is made to an alumnus or faculty member who has made some outstanding, worthwhile contribution to civilization or humanity. The Award, which includes a medal, was established in 1951 by Frank W. DeFriece, Sr. and John Clark in honor of their parents William R. DeFriece and Martha Jane Clark DeFriece.

Kathleen Chamberlain, professor of English, presented Reiff with the DeFriece Award. “When you look at the Reverend Dr. Joseph T. Reiff, B.A., M.Div, Ph.D, chances are that you see the quintessential professor – an elder statesman, proudly wearing the silver marks of wisdom and knowledge and experience.  You can probably totally visualize him standing in front of a class at a lectern, maybe wearing a tweed jacket, sagely lecturing about biblical hermeneutics or something, while rapt students scribble down his every word,” Chamberlain said of Reiff’s classroom teachings. “If this is your picture of Dr. Reiff, it’s wrong.  Oh, he’s definitely sage and venerable, and he knows his biblical hermeneutics, and he may even own a tweed jacket, but stuffy lectures are the last thing you’ll get in Joe’s classroom. What you’re really doing in Dr. Reiff’s classes is plunging into the heart of the liberal arts experience, which is learning to live a moral, thoughtful, engage, and examined life in which you strive to leave the world a better place than you found it.”

Reiff is an ordained United Methodist minister with membership in the Mississippi Annual Conference. He served as a pastor of churches in Mississippi and Georgia from 1977 to 1985. He joined the faculty at Emory & Henry in 1990 and became chair of the religion department in 1998. He has served as a faculty representative to the board of trustees, interim associate dean of academic affairs/director of the Powell Resource Center, faculty marshal, member of the presidential search committee at Emory & Henry, and faculty representative to the College’s Executive Council. He has received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church, the Finch Award for Faculty Excellence from Emory & Henry, the Maiden Award for unusual academic achievement from Emory & Henry, and the Hope Award from the Appalachian Center for Civic Life at Emory & Henry. He received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2016 nonfiction award for his book Born of Conviction: White Methodists and Mississippi’s Closed Society, published by Oxford University Press in November, 2015. According to Robert Michael Franklin, president emeritus of Morehouse College, “Every historical era or period, especially times of social distress, await books that guide us to a safer and better shore. Born of Conviction is a book for our time. Its pages offer portrayals of the human capacity for social evil and for heroic moral leadership. We encounter an America divided along the color line and meet white clergy and laypeople who risked Christian discipleship through words and deeds that can instruct, inspire, and invite today. As we find ourselves again on the long road to authentic democracy, this book should be required for leaders and laypeople, who will learn much from our predecessors.”

Reiff earned his Ph.D. in religion from Emory University, a Masters in Divinity degree magna cum laude from Emory University, and a B.A. in English from Millsaps College.

  • From left to right, President Schrum presents Dr. Joseph Reiff with his award accompanied by Dr. ...
    From left to right, President Schrum presents Dr. Joseph Reiff with his award accompanied by Dr. Kathleen Chamberlain.
What you’re really doing in Dr. Reiff’s classes is plunging into the heart of the liberal arts experience, which is learning to live a moral, thoughtful, engage, and examined life in which you strive to leave the world a better place than you found it.
-Dr. Kathleen Chamberlain

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