New Endowed Chair at Yale Unites Teaching of Theology and the Environment

A pledge of $3 million will endow a joint senior faculty appointment between Yale Divinity School/Berkeley Divinity School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES) in honor of H. Boone Porter, a graduate of Yale College, Berkeley and FES, and his wife, Violet M. Porter.

The endowment substantially enhances the interdisciplinary study of theology and the environment that has been developing at Yale for many years, culminating in the establishment of a joint degree program in 1997. The gift comes from the children of the Porters through the Porter Foundation. Boone Porter, who died in 1999, was a scholar, priest, writer, and environmentalist, and both he and his wife played an important role in the Episcopal Church.

Yale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge said, “This gift from the Porter Foundation will ensure that the collaboration that has developed in recent years between Yale Divinity School and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies will continue and expand into an even more fruitful partnership. The environmental challenges that we face involve not only scientific and technical issues, but also issues of fundamental values and moral commitments.”

Peter Crane, Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, said, “We are delighted and humbled by the commitment of the Porter family and truly excited by the new opportunity to further develop the already-strong connections between religion and environmental stewardship at Yale.”

“For Berkeley, this gift is not only an important contribution to addressing the urgent ecological issues of our day,” observed Berkeley Dean Joseph Britton. “It also places the seminary in the forefront of theological education in the Episcopal Church, vividly demonstrating the larger horizon in a university divinity school.”

A leader in the burgeoning field of religion and ecology, Yale created the first joint Master’s degree program in both disciplines in the nation. In recent years, several faculty members with a focus on religion and the environment have come to the University, and a number of major conferences at Yale have explored environmentalism from an ethical and theological viewpoint. An issue of the Divinity School publication Reflections was entirely devoted to the subject and included contributions by the likes of Wendell Berry, Wangari Maathai and Bill McKibben. Many Divinity School alumni are actively engaged in the environmental movement, professionally and in their private lives.

Porter Foundation President and Berkeley Trustee Nicholas T. Porter (‘86, M.Div. ’94) said, “As a graduate of Yale College, Berkeley Divinity School, and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, my father knew that his work and life was deeply shaped, informed and enriched by these great institutions. As a memorial to both him and my mother, we are delighted to be able to similarly enrich the lives and studies of future students of Berkeley and Yale.”

Porter’s teaching career began at an Episcopal seminary near Milwaukee and culminated with his appointment as the first tenured professor of liturgy at The General Theological Seminary in New York. Later in his career he was editor of the weekly magazine The Living Church, a publication focused on the Anglican tradition. He also had a major role in the development of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. He graduated from Yale College in 1945, then earned degrees from Berkeley in 1950 and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1996. In 1997 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berkeley.

In addition to the endowment for a Porter professorship, the Porter family also donated Boone Porter’s papers to Yale, working especially through H. Boone Porter III ‘72. The papers, documenting Porter’s lifelong commitment to the church and environment, have been deposited in the Yale Divinity School Library.

Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School, a seminary of the Episcopal Church, began their affiliation in 1971. Berkeley maintains an independent board of trustees and dean, but both schools are located on the Yale campus at Sterling Divinity Quadrangle. Berkeley students receive Yale degrees, along with a diploma or certificate in Anglican Studies from Berkeley.

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