Dr. Brian Bennett, professor of religious studies, was the inaugural recipient of the Niagara University Excellence in Research Award in recognition of his significant contributions of new knowledge to his academic discipline.

Dr. Bennett has been a member of the Niagara University faculty since 2001. His research in the area of comparative religion focuses on the interconnections between different religions and languages, including Church Slavonic (the ancient liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church), Latin, Esperanto (a language invented in the 19th century to facilitate world peace and solidarity), and Braille. His current project is on the religious origins and uses of Braille.

“My father was blind and Braille was everywhere in our house when I was growing up,” he said, “so this topic combines the personal and the professional for me. There is also an interesting Vincentian connection. St. Vincent lived in a building in Paris that later became the school for the blind that Braille attended and where he developed his world-famous tactile writing system.”

Dr. Bennett’s extraordinary scholarly output includes two books: “Sacred Languages of the World” and two editions of “Religion and Language in Post-Soviet Russia,” as well as numerous single-authored articles in some of the most prestigious academic journals in his discipline, including the Journal of Religion in Europe, Review of the History of Religions, Slavonic and East European Review, Religious Studies Review, and Theory and Method in the Study of Religion. He has contributed to several peer-reviewed editions, including Multilingualism, Lingua Franca and Translation in the Early Modern Period, Aspect of Performance in Faith Settings, Discourse and Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe, and presented papers at more than 30 national and international conferences, including the International Conference of Applied Linguistics, in Vilnius, Lithuania; the Sociolinguistics Symposium in Murcia, Spain, and Berlin, Germany; the Conference on Sociolinguistics of Globalization in Hong Kong; the American Academy of Religion in Atlanta; the Societas Linguistica Europaea in Lisbon, Portugal; and Sociology of Language and Religion, in New York.

Dr. Bennett earned his B.A. from Princeton University, his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and completed advanced studies of old Russian literature at the Pushkin House, St. Petersburg, Russia, and a year at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.

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