HWS Professor Receives Grant to Study Forgiveness – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWS Professor Receives Grant to Study Forgiveness

Geneva, NY — H. Wesley Perkins, professor of sociology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, is one of several academic researchers from around the world who received a grant for scientific research on the subject of forgiveness from a new program for scientific studies on the subject, initiated with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

In a large international grant competition that was judged by a panel including interdisciplinary experts from medicine, psychology, political science, and theology, Perkins' proposal was selected as one that is likely to make a significant advance to research in this field and has been approved to receive funding of $125,000. His project spanning two and one-half years will study “Forgiveness, Health and Well-Being in the Lives of Post-Collegiate Young Adults.” This project will be based on survey research and personal interviews to be conducted with the members of five graduating class cohorts from Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Classes of '79, '82, '85, '89, '93). The project expands Perkins' previous research with these graduates. More than 70 percent of the members of these classes have been part of a longitudinal study of post-collegiate life that was begun in 1987 and has involved three previous large scale surveys. The length of time span and high participation rates have made the previous project unique in social science research as it explores post-collegiate development.

As noted in a recent article about the forgiveness research program in The Chronicle of Higher Education (July 17, 1998), social scientists will study the nature and benefits of forgiveness at various levels from interpersonal to societal interaction and conflict.

Among the various proposals expecting to receive awards, for example, are a Case Western Reserve study of differences of perception between victims and perpetrators, an American Association for the Advancement of Science collaboration with members of the government of South Africa to analyze the transcripts of testimonies from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a University of Leeds (Wales) study of forgiveness in the family, a Princeton University study of forgiveness in faith-based groups, and a University of Ulster study of conflict reduction in Northern Ireland.

In an effort to provide funding for several more proposals, the initial partnership for scientific studies on the subject of forgiveness is launching “A Campaign for Forgiveness Research” to raise additional funds of more than $10 million (more than $5 million have been received). This Campaign for Forgiveness Research will be co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Robert Coles, M. D., and Ruby Bridges Hall.