Dean Harold Attridge named Sterling Professor
Yale President Richard Levin had a second surprise for a packed Common Room audience that gathered on March 1 for the purpose of meeting Dean Harold Attridge’s successor. After introducing soon-to-be dean Gregory Sterling of Notre Dame, Levin lauded Attridge for his “truly extraordinary” service, then revealed that Attridge will be named to a Sterling Professorship, the highest honor that can be conferred upon a member of the Yale faculty.
As Sterling Professor, Attridge will join such Yale Divinity School luminaries as Kenneth Scott Latourette, H. Richard Niebuhr, and Brevard Childs—the last YDS professor to be accorded the honor, in 1992.
Attridge is a distinguished New Testament scholar with expertise in New Testament exegesis, the study of Hellenistic Judaism, and the history of the early church, and during virtually every semester during his two five-year terms as dean he has continued to teach courses.
“My remarks would not even begin to be complete without tipping my hat to Harry Attridge, and to Jan (Attridge’s wife),” said Levin after his introduction of Sterling. [Click here for coverage of Sterling’s appointment as dean.] Then, following 50 full seconds of uninterrupted applause, Levin quipped, “Wait a minute, I’m going to give you more to cheer about.”
Noting that prior to becoming dean in 2002 Attridge had chaired YDS’s Building Committee, during the massive $49 million renovation to Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, Levin pointed out, “And so everything you see around you bears the mark of Harry’s meticulous attention to detail, his incredible discipline and logical mind that has applied itself to the decisions of this school for a decade now and even before in a way that is very reminiscent of the precision and detail orientation of his extraordinary scholarship.”
He called Attridge “a leader in every dimension, in scholarship, in teaching, in working will all of you in taking the school forward.”
Among the other primary highlights of Attridge’s two five-year terms as dean are:
- Increase in financial aid from $1.6 million to $5.4 million annually, and creation of 40 new endowed scholarship funds
- Creation of three endowed faculty chairs
- Formation of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture
- Increased autonomy for YDS within the broader University through designation as a “self-support” school responsible for its own budget
- Expansion of YDS’s program in religion and ecology, highlighted by the strengthening of joint initiatives with the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
- Appointment of more than a dozen senior scholars to the regular YDS faculty.
- New partnerships with theological schools in Hong Kong and Singapore, expanding YDS’s student exchange program.
Levin called the faculty appointments under Attridge “nothing short of extraordinary,” adding that YDS faculty and those in the University’s Department of Religious Studies have come to collaborate “as never before” in the past decade.
“There seems to me to be only one way to properly say ‘thank you,’” concluded Leven, “and that is to recognize Harry’s remarkable leadership in scholarship and service with the highest accolade that the University can award, and so, Harry, you are now a Sterling Professor.”
Levin then stepped away from the lecturn to shake Attridge’s hand, eliciting another long round of applause.
Attridge will take a one-year sabbatical after his term as dean ends on June 30 and, following that, will return to teaching at YDS. He came to YDS in 1997 as professor of New Testament.
Attridge the scholar has written a number of books, including, among others, Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, The Acts of Thomas, and Essays on John and Hebrews, as well as numerous book chapters and articles in scholarly journals. He co-edited Religion, Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Galilee and served as general editor of The HarperCollins Study Bible, Revised Edition (2006). He has been active in the Society of Biblical Literature and was president of the Society in 2001.
His reach extends beyond the academy, however, and his opinion has frequently been sought in a variety of public venues —including church gatherings, the popular press, and national television.
A strong advocate of interfaith cooperation, he was one of the principal drafters of the Loving God and Neighbor Together document that pointed to commonalities between Christianity and Islam and that was published in its entirety in the New York Times.
A Roman Catholic layman, Attridge previously taught at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, where he also served as dean of the College of Arts and Letters.
He holds an A.B from Boston College; a B.A. and M.A. from Cambridge University, where he was a Marshall Scholar; and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, where he was a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows.