New Harvard Divinity School Dean Announced

UPDATED: April 2, 2012, 4:29 a.m.

Harvard University President Drew G. Faust announced Friday that David N. Hempton, the Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies, will be the Divinity School’s next dean.

“David Hempton is an internationally recognized historian of Christianity with an exceptionally distinguished scholarly record,” Faust said in a press release. “His broad-ranging interests in religion, political culture, identity, and ethnic conflict, and the history and theology of Evangelical Protestantism make him particularly well-suited to advance the understanding of religion at Harvard and in this religiously pluralistic world.”

On July 1, Hempton will assume the post that has been held for the past ten years by William A. Graham, a professor of Middle Eastern studies and former Currier House Master.

“I am grateful to President Faust for this opportunity, and I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve as the next dean of the Harvard Divinity School,” Hempton said in a press release. “I look forward to working with colleagues at the Divinity School to build on the progress made over the last decade in expanding and strengthening the faculty across a range of fields and broadening the scope of the education offered.”

Since joining the Divinity School’s faculty in 2007, Hempton has taught courses at both the Divinity School and the College. His past classes include “Secularization in Europe and the United States, c. 1780-2000,” which received a 5.0 on the undergraduate Q guide evaluation—the highest mark a course can earn.

“The contribution that our faculty makes toward the study of religion at the College is something we need to strengthen and build on,” Hempton said. “Increasing religious literacy at Harvard and in the United States is a top priority of mine.”

Prior to arriving at Harvard, Hempton, who is originally from Northern Ireland, served as the director of the School of History at the Queen’s University Belfast. Hempton was also a University Professor at Boston University, where he taught courses on the history of Christianity.

Upon coming to Harvard, Hempton said that he wanted to increase interest in the area of Evangelical theology.

“I never thought at any point during my professorship that I would one day be dean,” he said, calling to the appointment process as a “whirlwind.”

While the position will provide new challenges for Hempton, he said that he has prepared a three-part plan for effecting change under his deanship at the Divinity School.

“I have a bit of a learning curve, and even though I know the place quite well, I have created an outline of three concentric circles that I think the Divinity School should be thinking about,” he said. “My goals are to strengthen the school’s historic roots in religious study, to prepare our students for national and international leadership, and build bridges across religious and cultural divides.”

—Staff writer Matthew M. Beck can be reached at