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ACU appoints director, fellow of Landon Saunders Center

Abilene Christian University announced two new appointments for the newly established Landon Saunders Center for Joy and Human Flourishing: Dr. Claire Davidson Frederick will serve as the inaugural director, and Dr. Richard Beck has been named Senior Fellow. 

Frederick is currently an affiliate faculty member at Lipscomb University and director of the ENGAGE Youth Theology Initiative. She will begin her new role at ACU on Aug. 1. Beck will continue his role as professor of psychology at ACU in addition to serving as Senior Fellow at the Saunders Center, effective immediately. 


Dr. Claire Frederick

The Landon Saunders Center for Joy and Human Flourishing aims to promote research, education and community engagement focused on fostering well-being and thriving across various domains of life. The center is named in honor of the late Dr. Landon Saunders (D.H.L. ’23), a renowned speaker, mentor and advocate for human potential and spiritual growth. The Saunders Center will officially launch on July 26, Saunders’ birthday, with a campus-wide ice cream party where Landon’s beloved Ben and Jerry’s Vermont Ice Cream will be served.

Frederick holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, a Master of Divinity from Lipscomb University and a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. At Lipscomb, she has taught in the College of Bible and Ministry and led the ENGAGE Youth Theology Initiative for seven years. This Lilly Endowment-funded initiative seeks to develop cultural competencies, compassion and empathy among youth through shared narratives, conflict transformation skills, active listening and constructive dialogue, particularly around racial justice and reconciliation. Prior to her work at Lipscomb University, Frederick was a minister at the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville and an accomplished singer/songwriter in the country music industry.

“Landon Saunders understood the importance of seeing people the way Jesus saw them – as inherently valuable individuals, created and loved by God,” Frederick said. “His message of belonging, connection, welcome and joy transcends labels and categories human beings often place on one another; it resonates with both religious and non-religious people and is desperately needed in today’s world.”


Dr. Richard Beck

In addition to serving as a faculty member in ACU’s Department of Psychology, Beck teaches in the Doctor of Ministry programs at Fuller Theological Seminary and ACU. HIs most recent, soon-to-be-released book is The Shape of Joy: The Transformative Power of Moving Beyond Yourself. Beck’s other books include Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical AgeTrains, Jesus and Murder: The Gospel According to Johnny Cash, Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality and Mortality, The Slavery of Death, The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience, and Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted.

“As I survey our mental health crisis and the political polarization of our nation, a conversation about joy is a pressing and urgent need,” Beck said. “I am thrilled to partner with Dr. Frederick and the center to share, especially with our ACU students, Landon’s vision about the centrality of joy for a full, rich and deeply meaningful life.”

In their new roles, Frederick and Beck will collaborate to shape the vision and strategic direction of the center, foster interdisciplinary research and teaching, and engage with students and community partners to promote human flourishing in Abilene and beyond.

“We are thrilled to have these two accomplished and thoughtful leaders in place with the Landon Saunders Center for Joy and Human Flourishing,” said Dr. Phil Schubert, president of ACU. “Their combined expertise and passion for exploring the factors that contribute to human thriving make them an exceptional team to lead this exciting new endeavor for the ACU community and beyond.”

The Landon Saunders Center for Joy and Human Flourishing has a range of initiatives and programs planned for the upcoming academic year.

Wendy Kilmer

June 14, 2024

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