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Emory Law News Center


CSLR announces van der Vyver professorship

Center for the Study of Law and Religion |
van der vyver head shot in library
Human rights legend Johan van der Vyver (1934-2023)

Emory University School of Law and the Center for the Study of Law and Religion have announced the establishment of the Johan van der Vyver Professorship in Law and Religion. 

This new professorship, to be filled by future appointment, is made possible by a generous trust created by the late Johan D. van der Vyver, a legendary human rights scholar, anti-apartheid activist, and I.T. Cohen Professor of International Human Rights at Emory Law. Van der Vyver remained on the Emory faculty and as part of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion until his death in May 2023.

John Witte Jr., Robert W. Woodruff Professor and faculty director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, described his friend and colleague in this Journal of Law and Religion tribute as “a giant in the legal academy with high standing around the globe for his brilliant contributions to many fields of legal study,” including law, religion, and human rights, public international law, and international humanitarian law.

Van der Vyver was active in the Center’s scholarly community for decades, beginning in the 1990s when he co-directed with Witte a series of international projects on democracy, human rights, and religious freedom. Together they went on to co-lead several international conferences at Emory and abroad and co-edit a two-volume Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective (1996) followed by a series of journal symposia and anthologies on religious freedom, church–state relations, proselytism, children’s rights, and more.

In August 2022, members of the Center and Emory Law communities gathered with Johan and members of the van der Vyver family to celebrate the dedication of the Johan D. van der Vyver Library within the Center. The library contains a trove of publications authored by van der Vyver over his prolific career.

“We are thrilled to announce this new professorship to honor Johan van der Vyver, a pillar of the Emory Law faculty for many years,” said Emory Law Dean Richard Freer. “This remarkable gift will enable Emory Law to enhance the student experience in the classroom and contribute to the eminence of our faculty.”

“This gift is a testament to Johan’s commitment to future generations of legal scholars and advocates. His legacy lives on through his own scholarship and in his generosity to Emory Law and the Center,” said Whittney Barth, executive director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

More details about the search for the inaugural Johan van der Vyver professor will be announced at a later date.