Seton Hill’s Dr. Fran Leap Honored for Work in Interfaith Dialogue

Dr. Leap receives Humanity Day award from the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh
July 28, 2014
Author: Jennifer Reeger
(From left to right) Dr. Fran Leap, Dr. Marinus Iwuchukwu, Julianne Slogick, Julie Webb, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh Outreach Coordinator/Humanity Day planner, Father Thomas M. Hart and Sheikh Atef Mahgoub, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh Spiritual Director. Photo by Omar Al-Hashimi.
Dr. Fran Leap, associate professor of religious studies at Seton Hill University, has been honored by the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh for her work in interfaith dialogue and understanding over the past two decades.

Dr. Leap was honored at the Islamic Center’s annual Humanity Day event, held on July 13 during the month of Ramadan. The Center invited friends and neighbors of all faiths to Humanity Day, an annual event, to celebrate and honor members who are working to initiate dialogue and build bridges.

"Dr. Leap has been organizing regular, semester field trips to houses of worship including ICP for the past 20 years,” said Julie Webb, outreach coordinator for the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. “She is very well known in western Pennsylvania, and probably beyond, for her proactive interfaith approach in teaching her students about other religions. We feel that Fran Leap has a gift for interfaith dialogue, which is especially heartfelt and sincere.”

“The relationship between Seton Hill and the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh spans more than 20 years of friendship and mutual support,” Leap said. “Coming to know one another and our mutual humanity has had a powerful effect on both Seton Hill and ICP. The students who made field visits throughout the 1990s were educated citizens and voices for peace during the turmoil in our country following the 9/11 tragedy. Students who have made the visits since that time have carried on the tradition of educating others about the importance of dialogue and coming to know one another.”

“Fran Leap does more than educate. She herself has become a symbol of the effort to help others recognize the tremendous value of interfaith dialogue to reach a point of mutual understanding and respect,” said Mary C. Finger, Ed.D., University president.
A lifelong Catholic, Dr. Leap has taught religious studies at Seton Hill since 1991. The Vatican II document on interfaith relations, Nostra Aetate, has been the foundation and inspiration for her work at Seton Hill. On sabbatical in spring 2008, Dr. Leap spent two months studying the Qur’an in Luxor, Egypt, experiencing that scripture as the living faith of its people. She also visited Seton Hill’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education in Israel and celebrated Passover dinner with a family in Jerusalem.

Dr. Leap received her bachelor’s degree in theology from Loyola University in Chicago, her master’s degree in theology from Marquette University in Milwaukee and her Ph.D. in religious studies from Marquette.

Dr. Leap was one of four Pittsburgh-area educators honored by the Islamic Center for imparting on their students a message of respect and mutual understanding of different faiths and cultural traditions. Also honored were: Father Thomas M. Hart of Saint Vincent College, Dr. Marinus Iwuchukwu of Duquesne University and Julianne Slogick of Mt. Lebanon High School.