Gregory E. Sterling of Notre Dame named next dean of Yale Divinity School

Yale Divinity School will welcome a new dean this summer:  Gregory E. Sterling, currently dean of the Graduate School of the University of Notre Dame.

Gregory E. Sterling
Gregory E. Sterling (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Sterling’s appointment as The Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean of the Divinity School is for a period of five years, effective Aug. 1.

Sterling is the first dean of the University of Notre Dame’s independent Graduate School, and he has served in that role since 2008. He has been at Notre Dame since 1989, and beginning in 2001 he served in several capacities at the College of Arts and Letters before moving over to the Graduate School. 

During Sterling’s tenure as dean, applications to the Notre Dame Graduate School increased dramatically, including those from African-American and Latino applicants, whose matriculation has more than doubled. “Sterling also was instrumental in the formation of a professional development program at the Graduate School,” wrote Levin in an e-mail to the Divinity School community. “This program has prepared students to enter the academy as well as a variety of other careers in fields ranging from industry to government and the not-for-profit sector. In addition, students are benefitting from training in writing competitive fellowships.

Current Yale Divinity Dean Harold Attridge sits down to welcome his soon-to-be-successor, Greg Sterling.

Sterling grew up in California and Idaho and received his B.A. in Christianity and history in 1978 from Houston Baptist University.  After a year of post-baccalaureate studies in classics at the University of Houston, he completed two M.A. programs, one in religion at Pepperdine University and the other in classics at the University of California–Davis. He earned his Ph.D. in biblical studies with a specialization in the New Testament from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley in 1990. His father was a minister for 46 years in California and Idaho, and when his mother died, the city of Escondido, California made the day of her funeral the Barbara M. Sterling day to recognize the work she did for the underprivileged in the city.

Sterling’s academic work primarily touches on the ways in which Jews and Christians appropriated the larger Greco-Roman culture without surrendering their identities. He is a specialist in Hellenistic Judaism, exploring how Hellenistic philosophical thought influenced Jewish interpreters and, through their exegetical traditions, early Christians. He has focused on the work of Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish commentator who embraced the intellectual world of Middle Platonism, and the interpretative traditions that are preserved in his three major commentary series. He has also explored how historiographical traditions influenced authors such as the Jewish historian Josephos and the Christian author who wrote Luke-Acts in the New Testament. 

Sterling is finishing a book titled “Defining the Present through the Past,” which examines how indigenous authors defined their people’s identities through the past and is an extension of his earlier “Historiography and Self-Definition: Josephos, Luke-Acts, and Apologetic Historiography.” He has edited numerous academic series, including the “Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series,” “Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity,” and “The Studia Philonica Annual.”. 

Noting that Sterling’s extracurricular pursuits include reading American history, visiting museums or Civil War battlefields, and golf, Levin noted that Sterling “will fit right in at Yale with his fascination of architecture and the design elements of engineering.” 

In his announcement, Levin thanked the search committee, which was chaired by Professor John J. Collins and included Teresa Berger, Carlos Eire, Bruce Gordon, Lamin Sanneh, Kathryn Tanner, Thomas Troeger, Nora Tisdale, Miroslav Volf, and Emily Bakemeier. He also thanked the Berkeley Divinity School board of trustees, who served as advisers to the search committee.

Levin concluded: “At this time I wish to express my deep gratitude to Harold Attridge for his extraordinary service as dean for 10 years. He has been a steady hand at the tiller, a complete master of the school’s finances, and a leader in shaping and recruiting its exceptional faculty. Under Harry’s leadership the school’s prominence both in its field and within the University has reached heights not enjoyed for decades. Harry and Jan have been a constant and welcoming presence on the campus, and we look forward to their return after they enjoy a well-deserved leave of absence next year.”

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