Professor Pelikan was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1923. He grew up in a multi-lingual family and spoke Slovak, English, German, and Serbian, and could read Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Russian. By the time he was 23 years old he had already received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He published his first book by the time he was 30, and began a 50-year teaching career, landing at Yale in 1962.
Pelikan wrote more than 30 books, and his five-volume magnum opus, The Christian Tradition is considered the authoritative work on the history of the Christian religion. In 1992-93 he delivered the prestigious Guifford Lectures in Scotland, an honor considered comparable to the Nobel Prize. He also served as the president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He held honorary degrees from 42 universities from around the world. In 2004, he received the John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Library of Congress.
Professor Pelikan is survived by his wife, Sylvia; three children, Martin, Michael and Miriam, and three grandchildren.
More information can be found at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, where Dr. Pelikan was a trustee.
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