Academic Chair Celebrated at Spring Convocation

Divinity School Convocation
Endowed academic chair celebrated

Noted Harvard University theologian Harvey G. Cox. Jr. spoke Tuesday at the School of Divinity’s Spring Convocation and joined in celebrating the establishment of the School of Divinity’s first endowed chair, the James and Marilyn Dunn Chair of Baptist Studies.

Cox, the Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, is the author of “The Future of Faith,” and several books on religion, culture and politics.  An American Baptist minister, he addressed the significance of the new chair for the education of the next generation of church leaders.

The Hollis Professorship is the oldest endowed chair in the United States, having been established in 1721. Cox held this chair until his formal retirement in 2009. Gail R. O’Day, Dean of the School of Divinity, said that the decision to invite Cox as the speaker, “connects us with a long tradition of the reorganization of scholarly accomplishment.”

In his remarks, Dr. Cox joined the concepts of soul liberty of Roger Williams and beloved community of Martin Luther King, Jr. to establish what he called the Baptist motif“The message that Jesus Christ embodied cannot be enclosed by this world, we must speak truth to power,” Cox pronounced, “we must draw on our freedom and our community as we go forth to the crowded ways of life.”

The Dunn Chair, established in honor of James and Marilyn Dunn, influential Baptist leaders for more than half a century, “will inspire variations and new harmonies of what it means to have religious freedom and bring continuity to the great traditions of Baptists,” Cox said. 

The Chair positions the School of Divinity as a leader in the ongoing conversation about the future of Baptist life. Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, who also spoke at Convocation, emphasized the importance of the faculty position, “This occasion, being celebrated in Wait Chapel, named for the first president of Wake Forest University and his wife, Samuel and Sarah Wait, celebrates the heritage of embodying learning and excellence the Dunn Chair represents.”

About its inception, James Dunn commented, “A cursory survey by Harvey Cox and others suggests this is the only endowed chair of Baptist Studies in a seminary or divinity school in this country. If not unique, it is clearly rare. Marilyn and I believe that recent history demonstrates an urgent need.”

Bill J. Leonard, the founding dean of Wake Forest’s Divinity School, was named the first Dunn Chair in the fall and was installed during Convocation.

Watch a video of Spring Convocation (video password is Divinity).


Media Contact: Mark Batten | Photo by: Ken Bennett, Wake Forest University


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Categories: Academics, Advancement, News