Leonard Norman Primiano Gift to Fund Prizes in Folk Belief and Religious Folklife

AFS News, Prizes
headshot of Leonard Norman Primiano

AFS has received a bequest representing the bulk of Leonard Norman Primiano’s estate to support new awards and activities for the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section as well as for the administration of at least three new prizes. The prize endowment totals approximately $600,000 and has a sustainable dispersal plan to ensure its long-term viability. 

Following Leonard’s wishes, most of the funds from annual dispersals will be allocated to support the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section, with  a portion of the funds to go toward AFS’s administrative work to support these awards and the endowment. Committee chairs Margaret Kruesi and Ben Danner will work to further develop the terms for these prizes and fellowships.

Kruesi remembers Leonard’s own words: “Passion and joy” are the words Leonard Norman Primiano used to describe his calling as a folklorist and religious studies scholar. He was intensely curious about people’s religious experiences, their creativity, and their agency in crafting their own lives of belief and commitment.  He was respectful of the responsibility of representing the faith of others, rigorous and demanding of his students, but always kept his wonderful sense of humor at the fore.  He wrote, “I have worked with a sense of joy to combine folklore with religious studies to study the religiosity of marginalized groups and individuals, from gay Catholics to the believers of Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement to Vodou practitioners.” At a time when personal and institutional religious beliefs, health beliefs, and their manipulation in the media are shaping political discourse and impinging on everyone’s lives worldwide, Leonard Norman Primiano has given a significant bequest to the American Folklore Society to encourage scholars, students and community members to continue his work in vernacular religion. The Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section of AFS is excited about the opportunities this creates for future scholarship! 

The new prizes will include, but will not be limited to: 

  • Leonard Norman Primiano Book Prize on Vernacular Catholicism
  • Leonard Norman Primiano Graduate Student Travel Award
  • Leonard Norman Primiano Retired Scholar Travel Award

As Danner notes, “These prizes and awards reflect Leonard’s dedication to scholarship and commitment to the success of folklorists at all stages of their academic journey.”  

AFS executive director Jessica A. Turner expresses gratitude to Leonard for his generous vision and to his wider community of friends and supporters for their work to support Leonard’s memory through this gift. Turner says, “AFS is grateful for this significant contribution, which will support research and scholarship in Leonard’s own area of vernacular religion. This generous gift will ensure that Leonard’s legacy—and his brilliant, playful, and peaceful spirit—will endure within AFS and the field.” 

Individuals may also donate to support AFS Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section awards in memory of Leonard Norman Primiano. 

About Leonard Norman Primiano

Dr. Primiano was a professor of religious studies at Cabrini University where he taught courses in the history of Christianity, vernacular religion, religious folklife, sectarian religion and contemporary American religion. At the time of his passing he was co-convener of the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section of the American Folklore Society. Primiano held a dual doctorate in religious studies and folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania, and his research focused on American vernacular, folk, and popular religion; religious material culture; and religion and the media, including Catholicism and television. For more details of his extensive accomplishments, visit his profile page on the Cabrini University website. To learn more about Dr. Primiano’s life, visit his online obituary.

May his memory be a blessing. 

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