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Harvard Divinity School Dean David Hempton to Step Down After Decade in Role

Outgoing Harvard Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton.
Outgoing Harvard Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton. By Courtesy of Justin Knight
By Marina Qu, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton will step down at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, he announced Thursday.

Hempton, who will continue teaching, joined HDS as a professor in 2007 and became the dean of the faculty in 2012. During his tenure, Hempton broadened the school’s multireligious educational offerings and diversified the faculty and student body.

In his resignation announcement to HDS affiliates Thursday, Hempton wrote that he was leaving the role with “so many happy memories.”

“I am grateful to all of you for your trust and support through some difficult times in the history of our country and the wider world,” Hempton wrote. “Nothing brings greater pleasure than knowing that we have all used our gifts and talents to help one another make a difference in the world.”

Hempton appointed more than one-third of the current Faculty of Divinity, including professors who promoted studies in African and African American religion, Islamic studies, and early Christianity and its connection to Judaism. He also supported the Women’s Studies in Religion program and the Center for the Study of World Religions at HDS.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow described Hempton as “inviting and open” and “dynamic and engaging” in a Thursday email to HDS affiliates.

“With inspiring conviction, he has expanded and elevated ambitions and perspectives, ever faithful to the ideal of a just world, a world at peace,” Bacow wrote.

During his deanship, Hampton oversaw the renovation and 2021 reopening of Swartz Hall, a central campus building formerly known as Andover Hall. In addition to the main building’s renewal, its storied chapel was renamed after Preston N. Williams, the first tenured African American member of the HDS faculty.

Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Hempton was a first-generation college student at the Queen’s University of Belfast, where he developed his interest in religious studies. He would later write his Ph.D. dissertation on religion and political culture at the University of St. Andrews.

Hampton’s scholarship focuses on topics including religious identities and ethnic conflicts, the global history of Christianity since 1500, and religious disenchantment and secularization.

Hempton wrote in his announcement that he is planning to spend more time with his family and transition back to teaching and research roles.

“Great to be on this journey with you, even as this transition brings sadness as well as joy,” Hempton wrote. “Ever onwards!”

—Staff writer Marina Qu can be reached at marina.qu@thecrimson. Follow her on Twitter @MingyiQu.

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