With the opening of the 1997-98 academic year, 137 new students were welcomed to the Yale Divinity School on the historic Sterling Divinity Quadrangle.
Guy Martin, associate dean of admissions, notes that the new class is unusually diverse, including students from seven countries, 19 Christian denominations, and several Jewish movements. They range in age from their early 20s to 56 years old. A number of incoming students will pursue joint degrees through the Divinity School and the schools of Medicine, Law, Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Management. Six come with law degrees and eight have earned doctoral degrees. One was a researcher at Bell Labs; another, a photojournalist. There are practicing clinical psychologists, full-time homemakers, military chaplains, and a 20-year veteran screenwriter with credits in Hollywood and New York.
The incoming class is 52 percent larger than the previous class and academically distinguished: 14 earned their undergraduate degrees cum laude; 12 were magna cum laude; and nine graduated summa cum laude. Fifteen of the entering students were elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
"The size, quality, and diversity represented in this class are a true testament to the hard work of our Admissions and Financial Aid staff," says Divinity School Dean Richard J. Wood. "Guy Martin and his team worked closely with university chaplains and college counselors on more than 100 campuses during the past two years. Their goal was to let people know that Yale Divinity School offers unparalleled opportunities for persons seeking careers in lay and ordained ministry or scholarly research. Clearly, their work has paid off."
Among the incoming students, 78 are pursuing Master of Divinity or Master of Sacred Theology degrees to prepare for the ordained ministry. Fifty-four students are enrolled in the Master of Arts in Religion program, preparing for careers in teaching and research, pastoral counseling, and other non-ordained ministries. The remaining five are special students.
An additional 14 students, up from nine in 1996, will join the Institute of Sacred Music -- a graduate center affiliated with both the Divinity School and the Department of Music that coordinates the study of worship, theology, music, and related arts.
Dean Wood attributes much of the Divinity School's success in admissions to the high priority assigned to preparing financial aid packages early in the acceptance cycle. "All of these students had their offers of financial aid in hand by May. That's a big part of the decision-making process for many students. We also had a record-breaking year in Alumni Fund giving, all of which is directed to student financial assistance. In 1996-97, for the first time in the school's history, over 50 percent of our graduates made contributions toward scholarship support."