Sutton family to support new Chair in Science, Christianity and Cultures

June 24, 2020 by St. Michael’s College

The University of St. Michael’s College and the University of Toronto's Faculty of Arts & Science are pleased to announce that astrophysicist Adam Hincks, SJ, will be the inaugural holder of the Sutton Family Chair in Science, Christianity and Cultures. The position, jointly supported by Arts & Science and an endowment to St. Michael’s from alumni members Marilyn and Thomas Sutton, will make a significant contribution to the body of scholarship on the intersection of these three key fields.

Alumni and generous donors to St. Michael’s, the Suttons have long envisioned a position dedicated to examining how Christianity, science and cultures interact and intertwine.

“Marilyn and I are pleased to make this gift of gratitude in support of the distinctive partnership of USMC (St. Michael’s) and U of T. Our education in the humanities at USMC and math and physics at U of T gave us a strong foundation for further education and our professions,” says Thomas Sutton.

The Suttons have found in their own studies that exciting knowledge is found in the spaces between disciplines. The Sutton Family Chair will offer a distinctive opportunity to advance such understanding.

“The inquiries of science, Christianity and cultures are informed by intersecting strands of scholarship. This chair will provide a locus for focused study of those intersections and facilitate the development of new knowledge,” Marilyn Sutton says.

Hincks specializes in physical cosmology, which studies the evolution and overall structure of the universe. In 2004, he completed a B.Sc. in physics and astrophysics from U of T, while also earning the St. Michael’s College Gold Medal for the highest cumulative GPA in sciences for a graduating student. In 2009 he earned a PhD in physics from Princeton University and then entered the Jesuit novitiate in Montreal. After pronouncing vows in 2011, he pursued philosophical studies at Toronto’s Regis College and later did a Bachelor of Sacred Theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. Between these studies, from 2013 to 2015, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia. Most recently he has been completing a Master of Theology and Licentiate in Sacred Theology at Regis College. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2019.

“As an alumnus of St. Mike’s at the University of Toronto, where I did the undergraduate astronomy and physics specialist program, I’m proud that my alma mater has created this creative position, and I’m delighted to be taking it up,” he says.

Among his various academic affiliations he is an associate scholar of the Vatican Observatory, while his research includes work with the Atacama Cosmology Telescope and the upcoming Simons Observatory, both located in Northern Chile, that are designed to answer fundamental questions about the history and structure of the universe. In the past, he has also worked on the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

“I’m looking forward to continuing my scientific research in a context that also allows me to examine how it enters into conversation with Christianity and culture, both in the classroom and as a secondary research area,” Hincks explains.

“Adam Hincks is a stellar addition to a growing group of very fine core faculty at St. Michael’s,” says USMC President and Vice-Chancellor, David Sylvester. “He reflects the caliber of research and teaching excellence St. Michael’s is providing to all University of Toronto students. His work — especially in studying the interrelationships of science and Christianity and their relationships to a variety of cultures — disproves the frequent assumption that science and religion have nothing positive to gain from encountering each other. We are very glad to welcome him home to St. Michael’s.”

Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto, agrees.

“The establishment of the Sutton Family Chair will advance research and teaching in multi-disciplinary ways that attest to the breadth and depth of the scholarship and learning that takes place in the Faculty of Arts & Science,” Woodin says. “I am delighted to recognize the generosity of U of T alumni and longtime supporters Tom and Marilyn Sutton. Their investment in this co-located chair affirms the importance of creative and meaningful collaborations between the Faculty and one of its valued federated colleges, St. Michael’s.”

Hincks will begin his four-year appointment on July 1, 2020. The David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics will host his graduate appointment in the University of Toronto. In addition to teaching courses for the department and for the Christianity & Culture program sponsored by St. Michael’s College for students in the Faculty of Arts & Science, Hincks will develop a course to be offered jointly for students in both programs, related to religion and science, in the time ahead.

Marilyn and Tom Sutton are graduates from St. Michael’s class of 1965. Marilyn Sutton graduated with a B.A. in English and French, completed a PhD at Claremont Graduate University and is Professor Emerita of English at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Tom Sutton graduated with a B.Sc. in mathematics and physics and is the retired chairman and CEO of Pacific Life Insurance Company.