Beloved Professor Anne Monius Passes Away

August 4, 2019
Anne Monius
Professor Anne Monius at the Center for the Study of World Religions in April 2019. / Photo: Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard Staff Photographer

A message from HDS Dean David N. Hempton

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I must report the recent, unexpected passing of HDS Professor of South Asian Religions, Anne Monius. Anne was found unresponsive at her home in Cambridge on Saturday, August 3. She had died of natural causes.

Anne graduated summa cum laude from Harvard-Radcliffe in 1987, and pursued her advanced studies at Harvard as well, earning her PhD in 1997. After teaching at the University of Virginia, Anne joined the Harvard Divinity School faculty in 2002 and was appointed full professor in 2004.

A historian of religion specializing in the religious traditions of India, especially the Tamil culture of southern India, her research examined the practices and products of literary culture to reconstruct the history of religions in South Asia.

Our colleague Professor Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies and HDS Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, remembers Anne as "a dedicated and inspired teacher to many, many students at Harvard and beyond, and she will be mourned and sorely missed. She made very important contributions to the fields of Tamil Studies, South Asian Religions, and Buddhist Studies, and was widely and highly regarded for her sharp intelligence, knowledge, and insight into many of the central questions of Religious Studies."

Formidably intelligent and rigorous as a scholar, infectiously curious and eclectic in her interests, and exemplary in her teaching and mentoring of students, it is hard to imagine HDS without Anne Monius. Her laughter, zest for life, and courage in the face of adversity were inspirational, as were her unfailing messages of gratitude.

Everyone at HDS grieves with her family, the community of scholars across the world, and her beloved students, past and present. We will miss her more than words can convey, but we will not forget her values nor her impact on our lives.

A memorial service will be planned for the fall semester.* If you would like to send cards and/or emails to Anne’s family, please send them to HDS Dean’s Office, 45 Francis Avenue, Divinity Hall, 4th floor, Divinity 411, Cambridge, MA 02138, or email

—David N. Hempton, Dean


*A memorial gathering to celebrate Professor Monius's life will take place Friday, October 11, 2019, at 1 pm, at Loeb House. The program will include tributes from her colleagues and students, music, and readings. A reception will follow at Loeb House from 2:30 to 4 pm.