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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Happy birthday, Waldo! HDS names a chair for you.

As Jane Greer and I reported this morning for, Harvard Divinity School and the UUA announced today that HDS has created a new professorship of divinity in Unitarian Universalist and liberal religious studies — and named it after the sage of Concord. Today also happens to be Ralph Waldo Emerson's 203rd birthday — and the 181st anniversary of the formation of the American Unitarian Association, one of the UUA's predecessors — so it's a propitious development all around.

Serious verbiage can be found not only at but also at the HDS website and at Here, however, we must immediately begin speculating about potential candidates for the professorship, which could be filled as early as fall 2007. Will it go to an English professor noted for historical research like David Robinson, Cynthia Grant Tucker, or Andrew Delbanco? Will it go to a historian like Dean Grodzins? Are theologians Thandeka, Paul Rasor, and Rebecca Parker likely candidates? Who else belongs on the short list?

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 25 May 2006 at 8:46 PM

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May 26, 2006 06:56 AM | Permalink for this comment

Gary Dorrien (now at Union) would be awesome. Also: Paul K. Conkin of Vanderbilt and Leigh Schmidt of Princeton. Among theologians, there's also Robert Corrington and Sharon Welch.

Heather Janules:

May 26, 2006 08:12 AM | Permalink for this comment

As a former student of his, Dean Grodzins has my vote!

Jeff Wilson:

May 26, 2006 10:08 AM | Permalink for this comment

I hope to hold this position some day. Those are some great candidates that y'all have mentioned. I guess my personal preference as a scholar in the field would be to see it go to someone who specifically focuses on UUism as their primary research area. Thus Leigh Schmidt and Gary Dorien, for instance, despite my immense respect for them, wouldn't be my first choice. (I also don't know how we'd lure Leigh, since he's a package deal with his equally talented wife Marie Griffith--they both teach American religious history at Princeton). Nor would Thandeka et. al., again, not out of disrespect, but because I really feel a need for stronger support for "hard-core" historians of UUism.

Dean Grodzins rises to the very top of my list. If they go with an English professor instead of someone in History or Religion, I have to admit I'd be mighty satisfied with Cynthia Tucker or David Robinson.

This announcement came as I was preparing my class lecture for our session on Emerson's Divinity School Address for next week. The timing felt just right. Happy birthday to the ol' transparent eyeball!


May 26, 2006 11:29 AM | Permalink for this comment

I agree that Paul Conkin would be a great choice (he's a member of my congregation, and an intimidating presence for our preachers - myself included!). However, he's quite happily retired from active teaching - he's in mid-70's, I believe - and pursuing a quiet life of scholarship and writing. I seriously doubt he would consider it.


May 26, 2006 01:48 PM | Permalink for this comment

Whoever it is, it should be someone who will be ready to retire at just about the time Jeff will be ready to step in!

Ron Robinson:

May 26, 2006 02:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

It seems like a broadly defined endowment that would allow HDS to go a number of ways with it through the years. My leaning, for ecclesiological reasons, would be to find a constructive theologian rather than a historian, and to hope we can have more Conrad Wrights in the future to hold history chairs. (You know, :),in keeping with RWE legacy, maybe a non UU would capture the RWE spirit).


May 30, 2006 10:52 AM | Permalink for this comment

My vote would be for Jeff Wilson. A clear eye and an authentic theological vision. In my opinion just the sort of person to train a new generation of UU clergy...

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