In 1967, Stephen Carl Finley was born to William W. Finley, Jr. and Hattie M. Finley (Fuette) in Waxahachie, Texas, about one year after the birth of his sister Sonja. His family relocated to Los Angeles, California shortly thereafter, and he was raised in Santa Ana, California (Orange County). He was educated in the primary and secondary schools of Santa Ana and Fountain Valley.
He began his formal academic career in 1985 at Pepperdine University Malibu, California, graduating in 1989 with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Religious Studies. He left California in 1994 to pursue theological studies at the (Samuel Dewitt Proctor) School of Theology, Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA. He completed the Master of Divinity degree Magna Cum Laude, in 1997, and he was awarded valedictorian honors, the Samuel Horace James, Sr. Theological Award, and the Academic Achievement Award. In 2002, he became the first African-American graduate student to matriculate in the Department of Religious Studies of Rice University, where he is currently a PhD Candidate, studying African American Religion and Islam. He is a Provost's Fellow. He is interesting in Black religion and the body, and his dissertation will examine the nature of the body in the rituals, theology, and practices of the Nation of Islam.
Mr. Finley enjoys many arts including cooking, poetry, flower arranging, and creative writing. He has been actively involved in many service and social organizations including being a member of the theta chi chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He has also served as President of the Black Graduate Student Association at Rice. He has written dozens of journal articles, book chapters, encyclopedia essays, and book reviews, and he is currently engaged in book projects on African American culture and religion.
He is married to Rachel, a post-doctoral researcher, who earned her PhD in Computational and Applied Mathematics from Rice. Most of all he considers himself fortunate to have such wonderful family and friends, academic advisors, and to have the opportunity to study in a great department.