Faculty accomplishments and milestones announced

Announcement by Dean Greg Sterling

June 19, 2023


Now that the 2022-23 academic year has reached its conclusion, I would like to celebrate a number of accomplishments by the YDS faculty. Please join me in congratulating each of these professors for their noteworthy achievements.

Promotions and appointments

I am delighted to announce that Almeda Wright, Associate Professor of Religious Education, has earned tenure. This is the latest signal achievement by Professor Wright, who has established herself as one of the—if not the—leading researchers and authorities on the spiritual lives of Black youths and Black young adults. Her publications include The Spiritual Lives of Young African Americans (Oxford University Press, 2017) and a forthcoming volume entitled Religion, Education, and Radical Social Change: Stories of Black, Religious, Activist Educators (Oxford University Press). Almeda is currently overseeing a $1.5 million Lilly-funded project at YDS aimed at accelerating innovation in young adult ministry and connecting congregations with emerging adults who are spiritual but unchurched. 

I am also happy to report that Clifton Granby, Assistant Professor of Ethics and Philosophy, was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor. Professor Granby has distinguished himself through his work on African American religious, political, and philosophical thought, and through research and teaching that reflect an interdisciplinary approach to the study of race and religion, ethics, social epistemology, and theories of freedom, power, and ignorance. 

Congratulations are also in order for Andrew McGowan, Dean of Berkeley Divinity School and McFaddin Professor of Anglican Studies and Pastoral Theology. Dean McGowan has been renewed by the Berkeley trustees and Yale University for a third term as Dean. Since arriving at Berkeley and YDS in 2014, Andrew has provided astute administrative leadership while continuing his illuminating research and writing on early Christian communities and contemporary Anglicanism.

As announced previously, several talented scholars are joining, or have joined, our faculty. William Barber began his YDS career this past semester as Professor in the Practice and Director of the new Center for Public Theology & Public Policy. Todne Thomas—who was with us this past year as a Presidential Visiting Fellow—will join the ranks of our regular faculty this fall as tenured Associate Professor of Divinity and Religious Studies. Also beginning their Yale and YDS careers in 2023-24 are Adrián Emmanuel Hernández-Acosta, Assistant Professor of Religion and Literature at YDS and the ISM, and Blenda Im, Assistant Professor of Sacred Music and Divinity at YDS and the ISM.

Other notable accomplishments and milestones

In May, Willie James Jennings gave Oxford University’s Bampton Lectures, becoming the first African American, and one of the only Americans, to give the lectures in their 243-year history. Professor Jennings spoke on “Jesus and the Displaced: Christology and the Redemption of Habitation.”

Miroslav Volf, Matthew Croasmun ’06 M.A.R., and Ryan McAnnally-Linz ’10 M.A.R. made best-seller lists this spring (including the New York Times best-seller list for two weeks) and generated mass media coverage with their new book Life Worth Living—taking the concept of the public intellectual to remarkable heights and successfully bringing theology to a broad public in ways that directly benefit people’s lives and communities.

Braxton Shelley, Associate Professor of Music, Sacred Music, and Divinity, worked assiduously to launch the interdisciplinary Program in Music and the Black Church that he directs. Exemplifying the quality and impact of the program were two concerts with accompanying symposia and master classes: one featuring Donald Lawrence and Vincent Bohanan, and the other centered around the Clark Sisters. We also salute his winning four awards last fall for his book Healing for the Soul: Richard Smallwood, the Vamp, and the Gospel Imagination, which uses the work of renowned gospel musician Richard Smallwood to explore the significance of vamp in Black gospel tradition and its potent and transformative spiritual power.

Finally, we want to express our deepest respect and appreciation to John Hare, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology, as he enters retirement. We will soon publish a career retrospective profile of Professor Hare. Suffice it to say for now that his contributions to his field and this school are enormous and will long endure.

We also send our best wishes to Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Senior Lecturers and Research Scholars at YDS and the School of the Environment, as they, too, retire from teaching. They established the field of religion and the environment in the academy and were pivotal in the launch of our program at YDS. 

Congratulations to all! Not only to those whom I have mentioned, but to the faculty as whole, who set a high bar for all faculty by their productivity and their commitment to students.

June 19, 2023