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Sirico Parables book

The Novak Award is made possible by the generosity of the late Joseph L. Calihan and his family and is named in honor of the distinguished American theologian and social philosopher Michael Novak. The Novak Award rewards new outstanding research by scholars early in their academic careers who demonstrate outstanding intellectual merit in advancing the understanding of theology’s connection to human dignity, the importance of limited government, religious liberty, and economic freedom. Recipients of the Novak Award make a formal presentation on such questions at an annual public forum known as the Calihan Lecture. The Novak Award forms part of a range of academic grants and awards available from the Acton Institute that support those engaged in serious reflection and research on the relationship between theology, the free market, limited government and the rule of law. Details of these academic grants may be found here.

Dr. Matson's lecture will explore how in the British tradition, political economy, which partly emerged out of discourses in natural theology, ethics and jurisprudence, casts some light on the content of our moral obligations. Drawing on Hutcheson, Hume, and Smith, he will discuss how commerce in the eighteenth century came to be depicted as a mode of cooperation—either literally with God or metaphorically with our fellow human beings—through which we serve the common good. That depiction energized the emerging authorization of commercial enterprise, helping to illustrate the virtue of what Deirdre McCloskey calls the “bourgeois virtues,” an understanding which contributed to the Great Enrichment. The depiction continues to edify business as a calling and elaborate how freedom serves the good of humankind.

Dr. Erik W. Matson
Dr. Erik W. Matson
Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Senior Research Fellow

Erik W. Matson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center and the Deputy Director of the Adam Smith Program in George Mason University’s Department of Economics. He serves as an Online Course Lecturer at The King’s College, New York. Previously he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at New York University. He earned a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University in 2017.

Erik has published widely on Adam Smith, David Hume, and economic philosophy. A collection of his essays on welfare and the philosophy of behavioral paternalism will be published this year by the Institute for Economic Affairs: New Paternalism Meets Old Wisdom: A Smithian Critique. He and Jordan Ballor, Director of Research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, are producing a multi-volume project on the history of Christian economic thought, with B&H Academic.

Kris Alan Mauren
Kris Alan Mauren
Acton Institute


Kris Mauren is co-founder and president of Acton Institute, an international educational and public policy organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan with international offices in Rome, Italy and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Institute publishes scholarship and film and organizes educational seminars around the world for current and future religious leaders across denominations promoting an understanding of the ethical dimensions of the free market economy.  The Institute also works with business leaders, helping them to embrace their work as a worthy calling and to encourage their positive moral defense of a free society characterized by individual liberty and personal moral responsibility.  Since its inception in 1990, The Acton Institute has experienced tremendous growth and today employs more than 50 people with an annual budget of $12,000,000.

Kris is a Seattle native and the youngest of 8 children.  After graduating with an economics and international relations degree from Johns Hopkins University, Kris settled in Grand Rapids to help found Acton Institute.  In his role as executive director, Kris has traveled the world, lecturing and consulting in dozens of countries.  He is widely recognized as a leader in non-profit management and consults regularly on best practices in governance, management, measurement and evaluation, and fundraising in the not for profit sector.  In 2010 he was presented with the Charles G. Koch Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Institute for Humane Studies, and was the 1999 recipient of the Liberty Executive Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Management.  Kris serves as a director or as an advisory board member for a number of institutions, including Donors Capital Fund, Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), John Templeton FoundationTempleton World Charity Foundation, and Templeton Religion Trust and Excel Charter Academy.  Kris is active in a number of community organizations including the Economics Club of Grand Rapids, Rotary International, and The Philadelphia Society.

Stephen Barrows, PhD
Acton Institute

Chief Operating Officer

Stephen Barrows, PhD is the chief operating officer at the Acton Institute. Prior to his role at the Acton Institute, Dr. Barrows served as the Executive Vice President, Provost and Dean of Faculty of Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, MI) where he was also a tenured associate professor of economics. While at Aquinas, he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in economics, and led a team of more than 85 full-time faculty, 150 part-time faculty, and 30 staff members serving more than 1,500 undergraduate and 150 graduate students.

Dr. Barrows also served 21 years in the Air Force as an acquisition officer, an economics professor at the United States Air Force Academy and a faculty mentor at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan. He retired from the Air Force in 2013, holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

A graduate with distinction of the Air Force Academy, Barrows has a bachelor of science degree in economics (1992), a master of arts degree in economics from Pennsylvania State University (1993), and a doctorate in economics from Auburn University (2002).

He and his wife Kimberly (née Uddin) are the parents of three sons and two daughters.

Event Details

Start Date

End Date


Mercatus Center at George Mason University
3434 Washington Blvd, 4th Fl
Arlington, VA 22201
United States


5:00 p.m. | Reception

6:00 p.m. | Programming

  • Welcome
  • 2022 Calihan Lecture and Q&A
  • Presentation of the Novak Award

7:00 p.m. | Conclusion

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