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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Jan. 4, 2006) - The Acton Institute named three new director-level managers who will oversee institutional relations, conferences and development.

Jay W. Richards, Ph.D. , has been named Director of Institutional Relations and a Research Fellow. Jay oversees important relationships with universities, seminaries and research institutes. He will also direct Acton's efforts to translate its work for a broad, general audience. In this capacity, Jay will serve as a leading Protestant public intellectual on behalf of the Institute. He contributes to Acton's research agenda by writing relevant books, monographs, articles, essays and opinion page pieces.

Most recently, Jay was Vice President and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. He has a Ph.D in philosophy and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he was formerly a Teaching Fellow. He also received a Th.M. from Calvin Theological Seminary, and an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.

He is the author of many scholarly and popular articles, as well as several books. His most recent books are The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Immutability and Simplicity (InterVarsity Press, 2003) and The Privileged Planet: How our place in the cosmos is designed for discovery, with Guillermo Gonzalez (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishers, 2004). The Privileged Planet is the basis of the popular documentary The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe (Illustra Media, 2004), which has been broadcast on many PBS affiliates nationwide.

Michael Miller is Acton's new Director of Programs. In this role, Michael will oversee conferences for religious leaders, seminarians and college students that Acton holds around the United States and abroad. In addition, Michael will have responsibility for Acton University, a four-day public conference to be held June 13-17 in Grand Rapids, which will feature leading experts on faith and economics from around the world.

He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame. He has a master 's degree from Nagoya University's Graduate School of International Development (Japan) and a master 's degree in philosophy from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, where he wrote his thesis on Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II and Karl Marx on Alienation and Self-Creation through Labor. He also holds an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, in Glendale, Ariz., and Geneva, Switzerland. Before coming to Acton, he spent three years at Ave Maria College of the Americas in San Marcos, Nicaragua, where he was the chair of the philosophy and theology department, taught philosophy and political science, and worked as an administrator. He has almost 10 years of international experience and has lived and traveled in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. His research interests include political economy, ethics, philosophical anthropology, economic development, and political theory.

Erin Needham has joined Acton as Director of Development. She has primary responsibility for the fundraising plan and its implementation at the institute.

Erin received her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Aquinas College. She spent more than 10 years at Amway Corp. now Alticor), where she worked in the international marketing department and the corporate public relations department in varying roles of full time, part time and contractual assignments, most involving project management.

Erin also spent two years as a missionary teacher in Niigata, Japan; one year in Salzburg, Austria as a university student; and two and one half years in Devon, England with her family.

Erin has been employed in the non profit sector with Mary Free Bed Hospital and Rehabilitation Center as their Volunteer Services Director. She was also the Community Relations Coordinator at The Grand Rapids Children's Museum.

About the Acton Institute

With its commitment to pursue a society that is free and virtuous, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a leading voice in the national environmental and social policy debate. The Acton Institute is uniquely positioned to comment on the sound economic and moral foundations necessary to sustain humane environmental and social policies.

The Acton Institute is a nonprofit, ecumenical think tank located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Institute works internationally to "promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles."

Interviews with Institute staff may be arranged by contacting John Couretas at (616) 454-3080 or at