Yale President Richard Levin will announce today that Emory University Provost Rebecca Chopp has been tapped to replace interim dean Harry Adams as the first female head of the Yale Divinity School.
Chopp, an ordained United Methodist minister, will assume her position as Divinity School dean on July 1. Highly respected in academic circles, Chopp is currently president of the American Academy of Religion and is a staunch advocate of women’s issues within the church. She was one of three candidates recommended to Yale President Richard Levin by a search committee charged with finding a replacement for former Dean Richard Wood, who left Yale in December.
In a letter to be released today, Levin expressed his satisfaction with the committee’s recommendation.
“We are extremely fortunate to have attracted a person of such distinction as our next Dean,” Levin wrote. “She is a proven leader; her judgment and humanity are widely appreciated by her colleagues at Emory and elsewhere.”
Levin will formally name Chopp dean at a 12:30 p.m. ceremony at the Divinity School, marking the culmination of an extensive search effort initiated last May, when Wood announced his plans to retire.
Professor Nicholas Wolterstorff, head of the Divinity School search committee, said he is happy that Yale had selected a woman to lead the Divinity School.
“I think it’s a coup,” Wolterstorff said.
Wolterstorff said Chopp had been considered by a number of universities seeking new presidents.
“She did not want the work and responsibility involved in being a major university president,” Wolterstorff said.
Chopp graduated from Kansas Wesleyan University in 1974 and she now focuses much of her academic work on feminist theology. In 1998, after a stint as acting provost, she became provost at Emory.
“She’s a very fine person,” said David Bartlett, the Divinity School’s assistant dean for academics. “I’ve known her for years.”
Chopp could not be reached for comment last night.
Wood, an expert on Japanese society and culture, was originally slated to leave this June. He abruptly changed his plans last fall when he decided to leave the school in December, a semester early, to assume the presidency of the New York-based United Fund for Christian Higher Education in Asia. Adams took over Wood’s post on Jan. 1 and will remain in office until Chopp’s arrival.
The Rev. Jaime Lara, a divinity school professor of Christian art, said the search committee involved both students and faculty in the selection process.
“I thought the fact that the students were listened to — was a positive thing,” Lara said.
Even so, few members of the Divinity School faculty knew who the candidates were until the decision to hire Chopp was actually made.
“None of the junior faculty were even aware of whom the candidates were,” Lara said. “That’s the system.”
Wolterstorff, the search committee chairman, also said the process has flaws.
“I think these things ought to be more democratic than they are at Yale,” Wolterstorff said.
But Wolterstorff said he is satisfied with the outcome of the search.
“People are very enthusiastic about her appointment,” he said.