Austin Bowman Creel was born in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1929. After graduating from high school in 1946, he went to Northwestern University. He started his graduate work at the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, and then went to Yale to do his doctoral work. He received his PhD from Yale in 1959. In 1957, Delton Scudder, the founder and then chair of the Religion department, hired Austin Creel to teach “Comparative Religion.” Professor Creel also taught courses in the New Testament, Religions of Asia, and Religions of India. He was the chair of our department from 1977 to 1990. Dr. Creel was one of the early scholars who had worked on Indian religious traditions and was widely known for his publications on Hindu Ethics. He is the author of Dharma in Hindu Ethics (1977), co-editor of Monastic Life in the Christian and Hindu Traditions (1990), and several well-known articles.
Dr. Creel and Dr. Vasudha Narayanan organized two conferences on Monasticism and Asceticism in 1985 and 1987. In 1985, NEH also funded them ($169,000.00) to have the first Summer Institute for High School Teachers to teach Hinduism and Judaism over 4 weeks in summer. This was followed by several other Summer Institutes over the next few years.
Professor David Hackett writes in his account of our department’s History: “It is to Austin that we owe the far-sighted creation of the Department’s Advisory Board long before other departments began to move in this direction. And it is to Austin we owe not only the solid foundations for the Department’s Asian curricular offerings, but too the founding in 1973 of the College’s Asian Studies Program. Finally, Austin put us on the road to computerization. A development we welcomed with appropriate rituals and blessings.”
Professors Hal Stahmer, Dick Hiers, Gene Thursby, and Shaya Isenberg also worked closely with him. In addition, several current faculty were hired when Dr. Creel was the chair.
Austin Creel is survived by his daughter, Kathryn Creel Suarez, her husband Carlos Suarez-Quian, and two grandchildren, Harrison Creel Suarez and Benjamin Creel Suarez. His wife, Patricia Ann Harrison Creel, died in 1985, and his son, Stephen, passed away in 2010 in Gainesville.