Gretchen Buggeln, associate professor of art history and humanities at Valparaiso University, recently received a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant for her research and writing of the book, “Churches for Today: Modernism and Suburban Expansion in Post-World War II America.”

“Gretchen Buggeln’s work represents her commitment to a complex and nuanced understanding of the evolution of congregational life in America,” said Mark Schwehn, Valparaiso University provost. “Her work also helps us to understand the architect who designed the Chapel of the Resurrection, which has stood for over half a century at the center of the campus. This NEH recognition validates both the exceptional quality and the importance of her work. The University is fortunate to have a scholar of Gretchen’s intellectual caliber on our faculty.”

Buggeln says her research will be centered on 75 primarily Protestant congregations in the Midwest and the work of three architects: Edward Dart, Edward Sovik and Charles Stade. She will travel throughout the Midwest to conduct on-site examinations of the buildings, interiors and community records. Her final research component will include interviews with those who were involved with the churches throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Her book will target an audience of diverse readers, including those who are interested in American religious history, modern architecture, history of the suburbs, and religious studies. The book is aimed to advance the re-interpretation of suburbia from a largely neglected angle and contribute to an understanding of the buildings as they near the 50-year mark in age.

“I am very pleased to know that scholars in my field have determined that this project is important enough to merit a highly competitive grant,” said Buggeln. “My goal has always been to use material culture as a way to address larger social and cultural historical questions.”

The manuscript for Buggeln’s book is set to be completed in June of 2013.