Harvard Divinity School Concludes Year-Long Bicentennial Celebration

Alumni, faculty, administrators, and students flocked to the Divinity School this weekend, celebrating its two centuries of existence with lectures, a panel of Harvard deans, and a bicentennial party, concluding a years-worth of festivities.

In her remarks at the party Friday afternoon, University President Drew G. Faust spoke about the growth of the Divinity School over its 200 years—from its origins as the first nonsectarian theological school to its current position as the most religiously-diverse divinity school in the United States, according to Faust.

“The rigorous encounter with multiple traditions, or with no tradition at all, is what makes Harvard Divinity School unlike any other place,” Faust said.

Andover Hall
The Divinity School's Andover Hall houses classrooms, meeting rooms, worship spaces, and a library.

“From a podium in Divinity Hall in 1838, [Ralph Waldo Emerson] addressed [the graduating class] with the daring and democratic and inclusive notion that the divine speaks within each of us and that, in Emerson’s words, ‘faith makes its own forms,’” she continued. “For 200 years, the Divinity School has made its own forms.”

Several hundred people also attended the panel “Religion Matters: HDS at Harvard University” on Friday, which was moderated by Divinity School Dean David Hempton and featured Law School Dean Martha L. Minow, Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, and Graduate School of Education Dean James E. Ryan.

The panel focused on the role of religious dialogue in interdisciplinary studies and ways to increase conversation between the graduate schools. Nohria, the Business School dean, said the connections between business and religion are often overlooked.

“There’s been a deep intellectual connection that capitalism grows out of certain religious groups that had a view of how to create work and that business was itself a way to do something that in the service of humanity and in service of God,” Nohria said. “The work that they thought that they were doing in founding these companies was as much a religious calling as anything else.”

Minow joked that “religion is present at the Harvard Law School before every exam” and detailed the connections between governmental and religious legal traditions.

“For a law school to be situated in the United States, the temptation is to think that there is only one legal system. We’ve worked really hard to locate the United States and the 50 states inside of many legal traditions,” she said. “We do view religion as a subject of study, an object of study, and comparative legal tradition is a big part of our education.”

Asked what “truly matters” to him, Ryan said that service—a cornerstone of many religious traditions—is fundamental to the mission of Graduate School of Education.

“If you have decided to go to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, you have decided, in effect, to dedicate your life to service in the form of serving others through education,” he said. “I think that’s an incredibly noble purpose, and I think we’re all better off, we’re all our best selves, when we remember that’s why we’re all here.”

—Staff writer Jordan E. Virtue can be reached at jordan.virtue@thecrimson.com.

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