Man with blonde hair and facial hair wearing glasses and PHD graduation gear

Rick Axtell

H. W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion

Offices & Programs


BA: Mississippi College
MDiv: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
PhD: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Advanced Studies at the University of Notre Dame


Expertise on issues of hunger and homelessness; former director of Louisville United Against Hunger and case manager working with homeless men. Has guided students to first-hand understanding of homeless shelters. Research on day laborers; public housing residents displaced by HOPE VI. Travel and study in Bangladesh, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua focused on sustainable development, human rights, and poverty. Honored as a teacher and a hunger activist.


Rick Axtell is H. W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion and College Chaplain at Centre College. Axtell initially taught at Centre during 1992-93 and returned to the college in 1995. He was named a Centre Scholar in 2003 and 2008, and received the Kirk Award for excellence in teaching in 2000 and 2015. In 2012, he was included in The Princeton Review’s The Best 300 Professors.  Axtell received the Presidential Award for Excellence in 2022.

Concerned about issues of hunger and homelessness, he has served as director of Louisville United Against Hunger and also was a case manager working with homeless men through the St. Vincent DePaul Society. He was a founder of the Natchez Stewpot soup kitchen in Natchez, MS where he served in a congregation for three years. 


Axtell’s travels in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Ireland, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Serbia, and Thailand have informed his teaching on issues of hunger, human trafficking, sustainable development, and peacemaking. In 2006, he taught in the UNESCO International M.A. Program in Peace and Development Studies at Universitat Jaume I in Castellon, Spain.  At Centre, he was instrumental in the development of Centre’s Shepherd Poverty Internship Program and its Social Justice minor.

Rick took eleven groups of students to Cuba, England, Ireland, Mexico, and Nicaragua, and accompanied other groups to China and Guatemala.  


Recent research includes employment trends for day laborers in Louisville’s homeless population and interviews with public housing residents who were relocated in Louisville’s HOPE VI housing redevelopment. He is the co-author of The Other Side of HOPE: Squandering Social Capital in Louisville’s HOPE VI, published in Journal of Poverty in 2015. Axtell is also the co-editor of Ethics as if Jesus Mattered: Essays in Honor of Glen H. Stassen (Smyth & Helwys, 2015).  The Bloomsbury Academic Press will publish the six-volume series on The Cultural History of Poverty, co-edited with Dr. Steve Beaudoin in 2024.

Axtell has also studied liberation theology and religion and violence in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. He served on the national board of Witness for Peace.  His articles on the topic of religion and violence have appeared in the Encyclopedia of Religion and War and The Merton Annual.


As Centre College Chaplain from 1995-2022, Axtell delivered 12 Baccalaureate addresses.  He was the founder of CentreFaith, CentrePeace, Jewish Student Organization, Muslim Student Association, and Centre Union of Affirming Christians. 


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