Remembering Walter Harrelson

Walter J. Harrelson, who laid the foundation for the School of Divinity in the mid-1990s, died September 5 in Winston-Salem. He was 92. A memorial service will be held Sunday, Sept. 23, at 3 p.m. in Wait Chapel. He is survived by three children.

Dean Gail R. O’Day said the school owes much to the work Harrelson did. “He was an incredibly important bridge person between the board’s approval (of a divinity school) and the first dean. He helped Wake Forest conceptualize what a divinity school for the late 20th century should be.” From 1994 until 1996, Harrelson brought the vision for a divinity school closer to reality — articulating the need, developing the first curriculum, reaching out to churches, and raising funds and support.

In an email to the School of Divinity community on September 5, O’Day wrote, “All of us here today are in Walter Harrelson’s debt for the work he did from which we, Wake Forest University, and the church now benefit.  We give thanks for his life.”

Before coming to Wake Forest Harrelson taught at Andover Newton Theological School and was named dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1955. He taught at Vanderbilt from 1960 until retiring in 1990; he was dean of Vanderbilt’s divinity school from 1967 until 1975.

Links of Interest
Read more from the Wake Forest Magazine.
Letter received from Margaret M. Mitchell, Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, expressing condolences.
Obituary in Winstion-Salem Journal.
Read an article by Harrelson entitled, “Is It Really Needed?,” from the March 1996 Wake Forest Magazine in which he discusses the vision for the School of Divinity.
Editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal (September 12, 2012).


Media Contact: Mark Batten

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