Yale Corporation Approves Divinity School Renovations

President Richard C. Levin announced today that the Yale Corporation has approved a recommendation to keep the Yale Divinity School at its current site, and endorsed reconstruction of the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle. The decision will allow the Divinity School’s students to continue to live, study and worship together at the Prospect Street campus that has been the school’s home since its construction in 1931-32.

The conceptual design for a renovated Quadrangle calls for drawing the academic program and community life into the front of the facility, which would house the Yale University Divinity School, the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, and the Institute for Sacred Music. Notable features of the project are expected to include renovation of the Marquand Chapel, preservation of the Day Missions Reading Room–one of Yale’s most beautiful interiors–and the upgrading and altering of the eight residential buildings to incorporate classrooms and administrative and communal spaces. The fundraising target for the project is $30 million.

“Careful study has demonstrated that we can best fulfill the mission of the Divinity School and continue to build upon its strengths with an adaptive reuse of the present facilities,” said President Levin. “I am pleased that the school will continue to serve as a good neighbor in the Prospect-St. Ronan Streets area.”

Provost Alison Richard reaffirmed Yale’s commitment to the Divinity School and its formal mission, noting that, “The solution we have arrived at for the School’s facilities is exciting, for it embraces not only pressing needs but also shared aspirations of the Divinity School community for the future.”

Yale Divinity School Dean Richard Wood, who joined the President and Provost in recommending the course for the school chosen by the Yale Corporation, said, “The Corporation’s action is a splendid affirmation of the Divinity School’s commitment to educate lay and clerical leaders for the Christian church and conduct important theological scholarship. Our ability to carry out that mission will be enhanced by the adaptive reuse of the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle and strengthened by the University’s major commitment to investment in our facilities.” The reconstructed Quadrangle will encourage an even stronger sense of community among the school’s faculty and students, Dean Wood added.

“The plan for the Divinity School shows that the President, Provost and Dean Wood have listened carefully to various voices and taken into account the legitimate concerns that have been raised,” said The Reverend Philip Turner, dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. “It also demonstrates the University’s commitment to preparing people for ministry and the churches and that the 25-year affiliation of Berkeley with the University has been effective. I am pleased that Berkeley, the Divinity School, and the Institute for Sacred Music will be brought together in a new and better facility, enhancing our mutual contributions.”

The Corporation’s approval of continued work for adaptive reuse of the Prospect Street site was based on an understanding that the physical facility will be scaled to the projected scope of the academic program and size of the student body.

The decision regarding the location and facilities of the Divinity School follows the affirmation of the school’s historic tripartite mission by the University in December 1995, when it endorsed the recommendation of a review committee that the school continue to prepare individuals for ordination, offer academic study of religion, and provide theological education as a basis for leadership in many walks of life. The Divinity School Review Committee, chaired by David Kelsey, Luther A. Weigle Professor of Theology, had been appointed in 1994 to conduct a systematic and thorough examination of the school.

“This powerful reaffirmation by the University is a major turning point for the Divinity School,” Professor Kelsey said of the Corporation’s action. “It gives us the opportunity to craft the programmatic spaces required by the School’s mission as envisioned by the Report of the Review Committee. Now the School can get on with the task of rePenvisioning its curriculum and its core programs.”

James L. Waits, executive director of The Association of Theological Schools, said, “The administration and those who sought to retain the current location are to be commended for their efforts.” He added that the decision “deserves the support of the alumni and others committed to the long-standing tradition of Yale in service of the church and its ministry.”

“We have already started pursuing other recommendations of the Divinity School Review Committee, such as a serious review of all of the School’s administrative functions, building better relationships with the churches, strengthening the applicant pool, finding better ways tointeract with the rest of Yale, and exploring new interdisciplinary centers,” said Dean Wood, who noted that the Yale Corporation also approved the Divinity School faculty’s recommendation for a new program in Lutheran studies. “There is much to do, and the decision of the Yale Corporation encourages all of us to redouble our efforts.”

The Reverend Wood was formally installed as the twelfth dean of the school on November 13. A graduate of Duke University and the Union Theological Seminary in New York, Dean Wood earned master’s, 1964, and doctoral degrees, 1965, in philosophy from Yale. He was ordained a minister in the Methodist Church in 1961 and became a recorded Quaker minister in 1988. From 1966 to 1980, he was professor of philosophy at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, then served as president of Earlham College for 11 years, prior to his Yale appointment.

The Yale University Divinity School, founded in 1822, is interdenominational and nonsectarian, with a faculty and student body drawn from the major Christian traditions. The Berkeley Divinity School, an Episcopal seminary founded in 1854, has been affiliated with Yale since 1971. Yale University Divinity School offers programs of study leading to the degrees of Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Religion, and Master of Sacred Theology. It has been home to some of the great theological educators and leaders of this century, including H. Richard Niebuhr, Sydney Ahlstrom, Henri Nouwen, among many others.

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Media Contact

Tom Conroy: tom.conroy@yale.edu, 203-432-1345