Religious studies Professor Ray Hart, winner of the University of Montana's Distinguished Scholar Award last May, says he will leave UM this summer because the university doesn't provide enough support for scholarship.

Hart, a 20-year faculty member who has been chairman of UM's religious studies department for 12 of those years, will become chairman of the department of religious studies at Boston University."I have a great deal of writing and research to do, and I need to be in a place that is supportive of that," Hart said Thursday. "The truth is there are more hospitable environments for that than here."

Don Spencer, acting vice president for academic affairs, called Hart "a very distinguished scholar ... a remarkable figure."

"I don't think we've lost any other faculty members of similar stature" lately, Spencer said. "I'd be terribly disappointed if we had a wholesale exodus of our distinguished senior faculty members."

Hart said his new job will bring a substantial raise, but that is not why he's making the change.

"I would have been happy to stay here the rest of my life, but there are conditions of work that are terribly important, particularly to university professors," he said.

"The department here has been under continual threat of elimination and reduction. That sort of perpetually unsettled state has not been conducive to devoting my full attention to teaching and research."

Two years ago, the religious studies department was on the so-called "hit list" and threatened with elimination during a statewide budget crisis. As department chairman at the time, Hart spent a lot of time lobbying and organizing support.

Hart said he doesn't want to leave with bitterness and he remains hopeful for UM's future. But he said it was "absolutely irrational" that the university did not replace a professor of the New Testament when he left four years ago, even though New Testament courses are among the most popular ones.

Hart plans to retire in Montana and will keep a home in Missoula. He's married to Fern Hart, Missoula County clerk and recorder. She said Thursday that she will serve out her term through 1990 and doesn't expect to run for re-election.