Divinity School Professor To Leave Harvard

Mark D. Jordan, a popular professor with appointments at the Harvard Divinity School and Faculty of Arts and Sciences, will leave Harvard at the end of the semester to take a position at the Danforth Center for Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Jordan’s departure comes three years after his arrival at the Divinity School.

While administrators made extensive efforts to keep him at Harvard, Jordan said, he ultimately decided to accept an offer from the Danforth Center.

“In the end, it was a question of what is called ‘fit’—that is, of the very particular correlation between my intellectual trajectory and the present configuration of this complex institution,” he wrote in an email.

Jordan will join former Divinity School professor R. Marie Griffith at the Danforth Center. Griffith now heads the Danforth after leaving Harvard in 2011.

Many of Jordan’s past students expressed disappointment upon learning of his imminent departure, noting that he was a beloved figure among students and other faculty members.

“Mark was a fantastic professor, I think he opened up a world at Harvard that I didn’t know was available,” said Sierra E. Fleenor, a student at Harvard Divinity School who took courses in “Foucault and Religion” and “Negative Theology” with Jordan.

“I had a very transformative experience in his class,” Jia Hui Lee ’12 said. “He will be very missed.”

The first scholar to hold the Niebuhr professorship, Jordan has primarily taught courses specializing in ethics with a focus on Christianity and sexuality.

Students said that Jordan’s departure comes as a hard blow to queer studies at Harvard since Jordan served as a mentor figure for many students interested in the field.

“I know a lot of students flocked to him,” Fleenor said. “His office hours were always full. He filled a niche at Harvard for students who didn’t feel like they had someone to guide them through this inquiry and field of study.”

Some of his students said that Jordan’s leaving indicates a dearth of resources and support for queer studies at the University.

“It is indicative of a lack of institutional support for queer studies and queer life at Harvard, both at the Divinity School and in the Yard. For me that’s a very significant problem,” said Nicholas J. Mendoza, who is a Divinity School student.

“I think it is a loss for Harvard, but I know it’s hard to be the lone ranger in queer studies,” Fleenor said. “Mark made the best decision for himself.”

—Staff writer Matthew M. Beck can be reached at mbeck@college.harvard.edu.

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