Professor Lowell McCoy was Professor Emeritus of Speech at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, where he worked with students on more than 2,000 sermons and listened to them lead more than 6,000 services in the campus chapel. Prior to joining the HUC-JIR faculty, he taught at Ohio State University and at the University of Cincinnati. He was ordained by the Methodist Church, and served as pastor in a number of congregations. His specialty was modern public address and preaching, and the oral interpretation of religious literature.
McCoy started his career as a chaplain in the U.S. Army during World War II in Europe, exposing him to all Christian denominations as well as Jews. He taught values that connected human beings to one another and promoted work toward the betterment of humanity.
After serving several Methodist congregations, he started his teaching career in the speech departments at Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati. In the late 1940s, Nelson Glueck, then-president of HUC, asked McCoy to help set up a speech program at HUC.
In his 50 years of teaching, McCoy introduced innovative techniques such as recording students’ sermons at the beginning and end of semesters so they could hear their improvements and creating a set time each week on campus for all students and faculty to offer feedback about the sermons. At various times, he chaired the faculty and served as an associate dean. He formally retired in 1989, earning the title “professor emeritus,” then continued to teach.
He said it was natural that he would have an effect on interfaith relations on campus because he was the only Christian faculty member at a Jewish seminary. But he had an effect off campus as well, speaking often at churches and synagogues about Christianity and Judaism, drawing on his in-depth knowledge of both.
Students loved him not only for his skill in teaching them how to deliver sermons but also for his one-on-one relationships with them, which, in many cases, lasted decades past their ordinations.
Throughout his career, Lowell endeavored to build bridges of understanding and friendship between people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. The many lifecycle ceremonies he performed for people of different faiths and his lectures to groups of diverse religious beliefs were just a few of the ways that he made an enduring contribution to our community and our country.
In 2014, the Reverend Lowell McCoy Prize in Interfaith Relations was established in his honor. It is presented annually to the Ph.D. student at the Joan and Phillip Pines School of Graduate Studies who has excelled in advancing interfaith relations on and off the Cincinnati campus. McCoy was typically modest about the honor of having the award named after him, saying he “learned much more than he taught” and calling it a “unique privilege” to teach at HUC-JIR.
Professor McCoy reflected on his years at HUC-JIR in his Founders Day Address, “A Never Ending Journey” (February 25, 2001), available here.
Professor McCoy was beloved as a teacher, mentor, and friend who invested love and respect in his students. He will be remembered for his gentle manner, extraordinary teaching and mentoring, kind and caring heart, commitment to interfaith understanding, and love for Reform Judaism.
To make a gift in memory of Professor Lowell McCoy, please click here.