After five years as a professor at the Yale Divinity School, where University President Richard Levin said he already was the “de facto” leader of the faculty, Harold Attridge took over as dean of the Yale Divinity School on Wednesday.

Attridge replaces Rebecca Chopp, who left to become president of Colgate University after only one year as dean.

“Our last dean began a number of constructive initiatives that our new dean will bring to completion,” Divinity School professor Adela Collins said. “There should be a healthy continuity between the two deanships.”

Collins added that Attridge is the first Roman Catholic dean of the Divinity School.

“His appointment is an indication of the welcome diversity of the school and its ecumenical character,” Collins said.

Attridge takes over after a year that saw some controversy at the Divinity School, including a scandal at the affiliated Berkeley Divinity School.

Levin had high praise for the new dean.

“Harry Attridge was the overwhelming choice of the Divinity School faculty to be the new dean,” said Levin, who appointed Attridge on June 17. “He’s served on every important committee and chaired many of them. He’s a very able leader.”

Collins said Attridge proposed in his inaugural address that the time had come to reflect once again on the mission of the school, and other Divinity School faculty members said this mission lies in training students for religious education.

“He’s committed to building a community of scholars,” Divinity School professor Margaret Farley said.

Divinity School professor Yolanda Smith said Attridge’s other goals include mobilizing the faculty and completing the Divinity School renovation project.

Attridge was out of town and unavailable for comment, but in a statement he said he was excited about his new job.

“This is an exciting time to be involved in the life of Yale Divinity School,” he said. “The school enjoys splendidly renovated facilities on Sterling Memorial Quadrangle, an outstanding faculty of dedicated teachers and scholars, a magnificent library, an impressive and diverse student body, and loyal alumni throughout the world.”

Attridge was chairman of the Building Renovation Committee at the Divinity School, and before he came to Yale in 1997 he served as a theology professor and dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame. He also is a former president of the Society for Biblical Literature and is on the editorial boards of several publications, including the Journal of Biblical Literature and the Catholic Biblical Quarterly.

“I am honored to have been asked to serve as dean and look forward to working with the Divinity School community in the years ahead,” Attridge said.