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Message from Dean Gail R. O’Day

When I started working on this update, Wake Forest campus was in full autumnal splendor. A splendor that was recognized with a national ranking as the most beautiful college campus in fall. And today, as I finally finish it, the trees have dropped most of their leaves and it feels like winter, no longer autumn. All that to say - it has been a busy fall and time has flown by!

Fall Semester Highlights

In addition to our regular offerings of courses, we have had many guest speakers visit campus this fall. To name a few:

  • John Philip Newell, internationally known poet and theologian,
  • Vandana Shiva, a global food activist, and 
  • Bishop Gene Robinson, retired bishop of the Episcopal diocese of New Hampshire.

In addition to giving public talks that were well attended by the broader community, each of these speakers also spent time in small group conversation with our students. These small group conversations give our students opportunities to learn directly from people whose books they read in class and are one of the
great benefits of attending divinity school at a top university.

In October we learned that we were one of ten schools of divinity in the United States to receive a grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for a project, “Moving Science to the Forefront of Theological Education.” This project will promote a more informed and fruitful dialogue between science and religion. Dr. Kevin Jung, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, will direct the project. This grant project puts us in a longstanding Wake Forest University tradition of advocating the compatibility of religion and science.

In October we hosted a Campus Festival of Young Preachers, part of the national Academy of Preachers. Twenty-eight young people, including students, prospective students, and alumni, preached for one another, for festival attendees, and for preaching coaches who gave them feedback on their
sermons. And three seasoned preachers also preached and led worship for the festival. It was a great occasion and the Academy of Preachers congratulated us on the most successful campus festival they had seen!

And perhaps most importantly for community life at the School of Divinity, we were able to start worshipping in Davis Chapel in the last week of October. After a fall of worshipping in the Lower Auditorium and then quickly converting it from a worship space to a community lunch space, it was wonderful to come back home to our new/old worship space. Ken Bennett, University Photographer, has taken some beautiful photos of the refurbished Davis Chapel. We will have a more formal open house and chapel re-dedication in the spring.

Two significant continuing education events were launched this fall.

  • The certificate program for leadership of faith-based non-profits had weekend intensive meetings in October and November at the WFU Charlotte Center and is off to a great start. We look forward to growing this program in the future.
  • The Early Career Clergy project, funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., had its first meeting in mid-November. A clergy cohort from across NC and southern VA spent a few days discussing health care and the challenges and opportunities health care offers for religious leadership. Our own BOV member, Ophelia Garmon-Brown, led one of the sessions, as did Donna Boswell, a health care policy expert and member of the WFU Board of Trustees, and Chris Gambill, director of FaithHealth NC.

The School of Divinity was featured in two articles in the November 12 issue of The Christian Century!

A Season of Thanks

Tuesday, November 18 we had the School of Divinity Thanksgiving luncheon and celebration at community lunch. In addition to a festive and delicious meal, we also watched a video in which faculty, students, and staff shared what they were thankful for this Thanksgiving. 

I said I was thankful for coming to work each day at the School of Divinity and seeing the amazing things our students and alumni do each and every day. I am thankful for each one of you and your engagement with our educational mission. For your monetary support, your prayers on our behalf, for each time you tell our story to a friend or a prospective student, for the ways each of you lives out your vocation and shares yourself with us – thank you.

I hope you and your family and friends have a wonderful Advent and Christmas. May we find time to enjoy the many gifts we have received.

With all good wishes,

Gail R. O’Day
Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching



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