Vanderbilt University Divinity School

The Vanderbilt Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion (usually Vanderbilt Divinity School) is an interdenominational divinity school at Vanderbilt University, a major research university located in Nashville, Tennessee. It is one of only six university-based schools of religion in the United States without a denominational affiliation that service primarily mainline Protestantism (University of Chicago Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Yale Divinity School, and Howard University School of Divinity are the others).

Vanderbilt Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion
DeanYolanda Pierce
411 21st Avenue South
, , ,
36°08′48″N 86°48′03″W / 36.1467°N 86.8008°W / 36.1467; -86.8008

Early history edit

The spire of Benton Chapel

Vanderbilt Divinity School was founded in 1875 as the Biblical Department and was under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, one predecessor of the present-day United Methodist Church. In 1914, in concert with the university's severance of its ties with the MECS, the school became interdenominational and ecumenical, and in 1915, the school's name was changed from the Biblical Department of Vanderbilt University to the Vanderbilt School of Religion; it adopted its present name in 1956.[2] The present physical plant of the school, known colloquially as the "quadrangle" or "quad," was completed in 1960; the Benton Chapel that abuts the quad is named for a mid-20th-century dean, John Keith Benton. In 1966 the Graduate School of Theology of Oberlin College in Ohio merged with that of Vanderbilt, increasing the faculty resources of both the Divinity School and the Graduate Department of Religion, as well as the holdings of the school's portion of the University Library.[2]

Civil Rights era edit

In 1960, African-American Divinity student James Lawson was expelled from the university for his Civil Rights activism by Chancellor Harvie Branscomb.[3] One of Vanderbilt's trustees, James Geddes Stahlman, published misleading stories in a newspaper he owned, The Nashville Banner, which suggested Lawson had incited others to "violate the law" and led to his expulsion.[3] The Divinity School dean, J. Robert Nelson, who initially believed the stories,[3] eventually resigned in protest.[4] Moreover, with three of his colleagues, Nelson "paid Lawson's $500 bail when he was arrested on charges of conspiracy to violate state laws the day after his expulsion."[4] The school was placed on probation for a year by the American Association of Theological Schools, and the power of trustees was curtailed.[3]

Denominations served edit

Despite having ended formal association with Methodism nearly a century ago, the United Methodist Church is the largest beneficiary of graduates from the Divinity School, with sizable numbers ordained in denominations such as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (which operates a seminarian apartment nearby the campus), the Presbyterian Church (USA), and African-American Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal groups. VDS, through the merger with Oberlin and an earlier absorption of Atlanta Theological Seminary, a Congregationalist seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929, maintains a historical relationship (although no legal ties) with the United Church of Christ as well.

Students come from throughout the United States, representing numerous denominations and traditions.

Leadership edit

Yolanda Pierce, former dean of Howard University School of Divinity serves as the current dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. Notable recent deans of the Divinity School include Emilie M. Townes, Joseph C. Hough, Jr., Sallie McFague, Walter Harrelson, and H. Jackson Forstman.[5][6]

Vanderbilt Divinity School is a member of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

Notable faculty edit

Notable alumni edit

Chinese theologian T. C. Chao (B.D. 1916, M.A. 1917)
Vice President of the United States Al Gore (Rockefeller Scholar 1971-1972)

Student awards and prizes edit

Vanderbilt Divinity School presents annual awards in recognition of the outstanding achievements of its students. These include the Founder’s Medal, awarded to the top-graduating student from each undergraduate and professional school, the Academic Achievement Award, conferred upon a student that has achieved excellence in the pursuit of a master of divinity degree, and the Umphrey Lee Dean’s Award, presented to a student that represents the vision and mission of the school. Also presented are the Florence Conwell Prize, awarded to a degree candidate who has distinguished themselves by outstanding work in the discipline of preaching, the St. James Academy Award who has composed the most outstanding sermon, the W. Kendrick Grobel Award for outstanding achievement in Biblical studies, and the J.D. Owen Prize, awarded for outstanding course work in a Biblical field.

Additionally, the School recognizes students who have upheld its values and commitments to the Wesleyan ideals of servant leadership, student service, and services to the Divinity School community, with the conferral of the McTyeire, Bettye R. Ford Graduate Student Service, and Divinity Student Government Association Service awards, respectively. The School also confers two annual awards in honor of American theologian and writer, Frederick Buechner: one for Excellence in Writing and one for the best master’s thesis in Theological Studies.

Furthermore, the school awards the Robert Lewis Butler Award for service and ministry in the African-American Church, the Disciples Divinity House Scholar award for academic distinction, the Liston O. Mills award for a student who has achieved distinction in the study of pastoral theology, religion, psychology, and culture. Additional awards include the William A. Newcomb Prize, the Nella May Overby Memorial Prize, the Wilbur F. Tillett Prize, the Elliott F. Shepard Prize, and the John Olin Knott Award.[18]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "RE:VU: Quick Facts about Vanderbilt". Vanderbilt University News Service. Archived from the original on 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
  2. ^ a b "Divinity School History". Vanderbilt University. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
  3. ^ a b c d Sumner, David E. (Spring 1997). "The Publisher and the Preacher: Racial Conflict at Vanderbilt University". Tennessee Historical Quarterly. 56 (1): 34–43. JSTOR 42627327.
  4. ^ a b Cass, Michael (July 15, 2004). "Former Vanderbilt dean J. Robert Nelson dies at 84". The Tennessean. p. 3B. Retrieved December 17, 2017 – via
  5. ^ Johnson, Dale A., ed. (2001). Vanderbilt Divinity School: Education, Contest, and Change. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 0-8265-1386-7.
  6. ^ "Vanderbilt Divinity School names influential public theologian Yolanda Pierce as next dean". Vanderbilt University. March 22, 2023. Retrieved 2024-02-21.
  7. ^ Glüer, Winfried (1982). "The Legacy of T. C. Chao". International Bulletin of Missionary Research. 6 (4): 165–169. doi:10.1177/239693938200600406. S2CID 148575716.
  8. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | All Fellows".
  9. ^ "Musa Dube". Theology and Religion in Exeter. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  10. ^ "Previous Bishops". The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  11. ^ Communications, United Methodist. "Bishop Hardt remembered as having 'the heart of a pastor' – The United Methodist Church". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  12. ^ "Howard Kester and Mary Frederickson, conducted by Oral History Interview with Howard Kester, August 25, 1974. Interview B-0007-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)".
  13. ^ Journal of Bible and Human Transformation
  14. ^ JRER
  15. ^ "Mark Noll | Faculty | Regent College". Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  16. ^ Gill, Robin (2000). "Review of The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety by Timothy F. Sedgwick". Anglican Theological Review. 82 (3). Archived from the original on 2018-09-22.
  17. ^ Parker, Adam (17 September 2016). "Ethicist Sharon Welch to speak at Circular". Post and Courier.
  18. ^ "Divinity School Presentation of Academic Awards". Vanderbilt Divinity School. Retrieved July 18, 2020.

External links edit