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Dr. Stephen A. Kent

Stephen A. Kent, PhD, is in the process of creating a collection of materials on alternative religions and extremist groups. In this project, he is working with Gordon Drever of Athabasca University. The collection is housed at the University of Alberta and is meant to be a resource for graduate students, reporters, lawyers, and other serious researchers.

Doctor Kent himself is the author of a book and 65 articles, and he has worked on 23 cult-related court cases. He has two master’s degrees; his PhD in Religion and Modern Western Society is from McMaster University.

One might think that with all these accomplishments he would rest on his laurels. Not Stephen Kent. His favorite saying is “Get to work!” And that’s exactly what he has done: “...As I age (and I have no children), I realize that if I will have any legacy at all, then it will be primarily through my publications and the research collection on alternative religions that I have amassed.”

Stephen Kent has been the recipient of many awards throughout his life, starting in high school. At the ICSA conference in Montreal, Canada in July 2012, he received the Margaret Singer Award. But perhaps the most telling is the one he received in 2009 from the Graduate Students’ Association for outstanding work as a graduate student supervisor. Similarly, and reflective of the high standards against which undergraduates evaluate their instructors, Dr. Kent earned his department’s undergraduate teaching award in 2010.

One hint about why students admire him so much and what makes him the kind of teacher one longs for may be gleaned from the delightful and unexpected speech he delivered at the time of his award at the ICSA conference. With true story-telling artistry, humility, and generosity, he used the opportunity to praise Margaret Singer and give the audience members, some of whom may not have known her, a hilarious and fascinating bird’s-eye view into her personality:

I am surprised about receiving this award...

One aspect of my background, however, that does give credence to my receiving the Margaret Singer Award is that I had the privilege of spending considerable time with her and her files during the last years of her life. You would be correct to imagine that, in doing so, I acquired a few stories about Margaret and her fight against abuse and abusers. Then, of course, there were the other stories.

In a different setting, in a different time, perhaps I would tell you the story of Margaret and her machine gun or Margaret and her hand grenade. Possibly I would recount the tale about Margaret and the Mafia boss....

I thank you again for this honour, and I do hope that my own work aspires to the standards that Margaret set in the struggle against abuse, manipulation, and deception.

Dr. Kent is a full professor at the University of Alberta in Canada.