Dynamic, intellectual, scholar are just a few words that come to mind when I think about our Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni. So today, I cannot express enough how thrilled I am to congratulate him on receiving the prestigious, 2019 Peter J. Gomes STB ’68 Memorial Honors. The annual award from Dr. Soni’s alma mater Harvard Divinity School, recognizes spiritual innovators who shape religious and spiritual life both inside and outside the house of worship.
Anyone who has met Dean Soni or had the pleasure of taking one of his classes would agree that he exemplifies these religious standards of excellence each day on the USC campus while being the first Hindu to serve as the chief religious leader of an American university.
“As Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California, my work is really defined by bringing together the spiritual and scholarly resources on campus and in Los Angeles, and that work emerges directly from my training and experiences at HDS,” Dean Soni said. “It’s hard to describe the feeling of being recognized by one’s alma mater, but I know that I will always cherish this honor.”
I am very proud to celebrate this distinction with Dean Soni who also serves as Vice Provost of Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention, Adjunct Professor of Religion, and a University Fellow at the Annenberg Center on Public Diplomacy.
In addition to the many titles he holds at USC, Dean Soni shares an equally multi-faceted background. He was born in India and raised in Southern California, he has family on five continents and they collectively represent every major religious tradition in the world.
You could say that tolerance and inclusivity defines Dean Soni and his core belief system. “If you look at all the different faith religions in the world, the one thing that really connects those religions is this notion that we are our brothers’ keeper, we are a global family and to really serve God, we have to serve each other,” Dean Soni said.
The HDS Alumni/Alumnae Council will officially present the 2019 Gomes Honors on May 2. This award is a well-deserved honor for Dean Soni. Please join me, along with faculty, staff, and students in congratulating him for his continued work at our university and beyond, as he would say.
– Michael W. Quick, April 1, 2019