|Janice Dean Willis|
|Alma mater||BA and MA degrees in philosophy, Cornell University; Ph.D. in Indic and Buddhist Studies, Columbia University|
|Occupation||Professor of Religion|
|Known for||Author of books on Tibetan Buddhism|
|Awards||Wesleyan University’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching, 2003|
Janice Dean Willis, or Jan Willis (born 1948) is Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University, where she has taught since 1977; and the author of books on Tibetan Buddhism. She has been called influential by Time Magazine, Newsweek (cover story), and Ebony Magazine. Aetna Inc.’s 2011 African American History Calendar features professor Willis as one of thirteen distinguished leaders of faith-based health initiatives in the United States.
Willis grew up in Docena, Alabama (near Birmingham), as the daughter of a Baptist deacon and steelworker. While traveling through Asia during the early 1970s, she became the student of Tibetan lama Thubten Yeshe, who encouraged her academic pursuits. She received BA and MA degrees in philosophy from Cornell University (thesis: History, Faith, and Kerygma; A Critique of Bultmann's Existentialist Theology.), and a Ph.D. in Indic and Buddhist Studies from Columbia University (dissertation: A Study of the Chapter on Reality Based Upon the Tattvartha-patalam of Asanga's Bodhisattvabhumi.).
She is the author of the following books:
- Dreaming Me: An African American Woman’s Spiritual Journey. New York: Riverhead Books, 2001.
- The Diamond Light: An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Meditation. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972.
- On Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga's Bodhisattvabhumi. Columbia UP, 1979.
- Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition. Wisdom Publications, 1995.
- Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet. (Editor, and contributor of two of six, essays) Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1989.
Since 2006 she has contributed to the group blog On Faith (sponsored by Newsweek and the Washington Post) alongside Elie Wiesel, Desmond Tutu, and Madeline Albright, among others. In 2003, she was awarded Wesleyan University’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
- December 2000; Willis was named as one of six "Spiritual innovators for the new millennium"
- Labi, Nadya (2000). "Innovators - Time 100: The Next Wave - Spiritual Leaders - Jan Willis: Of Color and the Cushion". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
- "Spirituality in America," 2005.
- Tibetan Buddhism: Learning To Let Go - Newsweek and The Daily Beast
- Tibetan Buddhism: Learning to Let Go; After college, this child of Jim Crow went to Nepal, where she found the divine within and made peace with her past. (Jan Willis)(Cover Story ...)
- May 2007 issue cites her as one of the 150 most influential African Americans (one of sixteen religious leaders so named).
- Biography - Aetna African American Calendar 2011
- Profile - Aetna African American Calendar 2011
- Aetna’s 2011 African American History Calendar Highlights Leaders of Faith-Based Health Initiatives | Business Wire
- AETNA NEW : Aetna's 2011 African American History Calendar Highlights Leaders of Faith-Based Health Initiatives | 4-Traders
- "Jan Willis: Professor of Religion: Books". Wesleyan University. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
- Paine, Jeffrey. Re-Enchantment: Tibetan Buddhism Comes to the West. Norton, 2004. ISBN 978-0-393-32626-0 Willis's experience with Lama Yeshe is discussed on pp. 64–70.