Devonia and Steve Stein moved to Bloomington in 1970, when Steve joined the Department of Religious Studies as one of its first junior faculty members, after receiving a Ph.D. in American Religious History from Yale University. In thirty-five years at IU, Steve became one of the university’s most distinguished professors—a reputation officially recognized in 1995, when he was awarded a Chancellor’s Professorship in Teaching and Research and Indiana University's Tracy M. Sonneborn Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research. A two-time recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Steve’s research ranged from the canonical, with particular expertise in Jonathan Edwards leading to his work as the editor of three volumes of the Yale Edition of Edwards’ writings, to the new and disruptive. His comprehensive research on the Shakers inspired influential work on new religious movements and dissenting religious communities in the U.S.
Devonia and Steve Stein
Steve was the recipient of several teaching awards, but the best testimony of the work he did in the classroom comes from former students. Many recall Steve’s renowned introductory classes, including “The Cult Controversy,” “New Religious Movements” and “Religion and Violence,” as well as his extraordinary work ethic and dedication to students. This extended beyond the classroom, as he and Devonia often hosted students in their home. Devonia shared his dedication to students, both from the university and younger, often volunteering in the local public schools. Much of her time was devoted to social action within the larger Bloomington community including serving on the Monroe County Welfare Board and as a Bloomington Human Resources Commission Member. She was active in the Democratic party and served as the Volunteer Coordinator for Tomilea Allison’s successful 1983 and 87 mayoral campaigns.
Throughout the years Devonia and Steve continued to collaborate closely on his research. Their partnership, rooted in the shared interest in religion and education that brought them together when they first met in college, contributed in numerous intangible ways to the culture of the department and deeply influenced the successful work he did during two terms as the Chair of the Department.
Together, Steve and Devonia intertwined their lives with the life of the Department. And as the Department enters a new era, with the hiring of many new faculty members, Steve and Devonia have continued to define its character with their warmth and generosity.
Steve passed away on January 12, 2022 surrounded by his family. He will be remembered with great honor.