Div School hones in on new dean

The search committee charged with finding a successor for Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge will hone in on a candidate starting this week.

The committee has collected a list of roughly 60 applicants and hopes to narrow it down to about five candidates by the end of October, said committee chairman and Divinity School professor John J. Collins. Those applicants will be interviewed by the committee, with a final choice to be made around the end of the calendar year.

“We are looking for someone who will have the respect of the University, who has a good academic reputation [and] who is supportive of a theological education,” Collins said.

Collins said that about a dozen prospective deans are “plausible candidates” for interviews. Most of those are outside candidates — mostly deans or seminary presidents from other schools — whom the committee has approached and asked to apply, since the position is so specialized.

Collins added that search committee members are not interested in job seekers who are unhappy or dissatisfied with their current positions. Yale is looking for leaders who have proven administrative ability, budgetary sense, and a commitment to diversity and globalization, Collins said, and personal faith will not be a factor. But as the committee members attempt to pare down the list of names they have accrued, an advisory committee of alumni and “supporters” established by University President Richard Levin expects to find more candidates for the job within the next few weeks. Alumni from around the world have been putting forth names for consideration, said advisory committee co-chairman Chris Sawyer DIV ’75, and they will continue to do so.

“My bet is that in the coming weeks, even more names will surface,” Sawyer said. “Alumni and people across the world who are interested are just very excited about the Yale Divinity School right now and its prospects for the future. They are confident that Collins’ committee and President Levin will select somebody equal to the opportunities the job presents.”

University President Richard Levin announced the creation of the dean search committee — which includes Collins, seven other Divinity School professors, and one professor of history and religious studies from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences — and the advisory committee in a letter to the Divinity School community July 21. After the committee submits its final list of names to Levin sometime this winter, he will decide Attridge’s replacement.

The new dean will take over after Attridge retires on June 30, 2012, after 10 years at the helm of the school. He announced his plans for retirement in May, stating that he would take a sabbatical year in 2012-’13 and then return to the school to teach. During his deanship, Attridge focused on increasing student financial aid, recruiting faculty and leading the school’s $38 million capital campaign to benefit joint degree programs.

“I think I have been able to accomplish a good deal in my 10 years as dean,” he told the News in May. “But I think now is just the right time to turn things over to a new generation of leadership.”

Last Wednesday, Attridge declined to comment on the search for his replacement because he said he does not want to influence the process.

The search committee will meet once a week through October starting this week.

Comments