Leonard Norman Primiano Ph.D.
1957 - 2021
Stuard Funeral Directors Inc.
209 N Newtown Street Rd
Newtown Square, PA
Leonard Norman Primiano, PhD, 64, Professor, Writer, Ethnographer, Collector of Religious Art Leonard Norman Primiano of Wayne, Pennsylvania passed away peacefully on the evening of July 25, 2021, after a long illness. He was 64 years old. Leonard was born in Philadelphia on January 11, 1957, to John Paul and Dorothy (Czerwinski) Primiano. He earned his BA in Religious Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (1978), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School (1980), an MA in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania (1982) and a dual doctorate in Religious Studies and Folklore and Folklife Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (1993). His dual doctorate in these fields was the only such degree ever given by Penn. He taught at Memorial University of Newfoundland, the University of Pennsylvania, and as a professor of Religious Studies at Cabrini College and University from 1993 until 2021. He offered courses in the history of Christianity, American Catholicism, American religion, American religious movements, and “vernacular” religion, or the study of religion as it is lived in everyday life. He published widely in these areas, not as books, but he specialized in the scholarly article. He was an important authority on the indigenous American religion known as “Father Divine’s International Peace Mission Movement.” A longtime friend of the movement, he helped develop the online resource, “The Father Divine Project” consisting of interviews of members creating a remarkable resource of American religious oral history. He was head of the Cabrini Honors Program for many years, but he enjoyed teaching students at all levels, especially introducing them to the complexities of the Christian tradition. He especially loved writing about vernacular religious art and was an avid collector and exhibited his collection throughout the United States and at Cabrini. Primiano also was elected a Fellow of the American Folklore Society and served a three-year term on the Society’s Executive Board. He also served as co-chair of the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife chapter of the society and as the co-chair of the Folklore and Religion Seminar of the American Academy of Religion. He won two teaching awards, the local Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award and the national The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award (2014). He was blessed with many wonderful students, eight of which were admitted to Harvard Divinity School from Cabrini under his guidance. He was highly regarded by colleagues internationally and by students who, decades later, spoke lovingly of his influence and inspiration. In addition to his brother John Paul, he is survived by innumerable friends, colleagues, and former students. There will be a funeral mass at Daylesford Abbey, Paoli, at 2:00pm on Saturday, September 11. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Folklore Society’s Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section (800 East Third Street, Bloomington, IN 47405) for an endowment in Dr. Primiano’s name. STUARD FUNERAL - NEWTOWN SQUARE A FAMILY TRADITION SINCE 1822
Published by Main Line Media News from Aug. 5 to Aug. 15, 2021.
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Funeral Mass
Daylesford Abbey
Paoli, PA
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Leonard and I overlapped as graduate students in Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He brought intellectual dynamism to the program with his enthusiasm for ideas and scholarship. His research on Father Divine, which he presented to us (students and faculty) was fascinating. I am grateful for his publications and just wish future generations could experience Leonard's wonderful sense of excitement when he spoke about his research. Leonard was warm and enthusiastic, kind and generous and I will always remember him with his big smile and feel his energetic presence. I am grateful to have known him.
Susannah Heschel
August 15, 2021
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