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New Dean of Harvard Divinity School

Dear Members of the Harvard Divinity School Community,

It is my pleasure to announce that Marla Frederick, currently the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion and Culture at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, will serve as the next dean of Harvard Divinity School, starting on January 1, 2024. 

Marla is a leading ethnographer who employs an interdisciplinary approach to examining the ways in which religion, race, and politics impact our everyday lives. Her influential scholarship is principally focused on the study of religion and media, religion and social activism in the US South, and the sustainability of Black institutions in a ‘post-racial’ world. She is the author or co-author of four books, including Colored Television: American Religion Gone Global andBetween Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith. As general editor, she is currently curating, alongside five co-editors, an encyclopedia of Historically Black College and University histories. She has taught courses on the anthropology of religion; religion, gender, and race; the African American religious experience; and American Evangelicalism. 

I am thrilled to welcome Marla back to Harvard. She spent 16 years as a member of the Committee on the Study of Religion and as a professor in the Department of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, serving as interim chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion and as director of graduate studies and chair of the admissions committee for the Department of African and African American Studies. Her commitment to citizenship has also distinguished her time at Emory, where she has served on the University’s advisory committee on tenure and promotion as well as the Candler School of Theology’s committees on personnel and academic policy, and strategic planning. She has also served as president of both the American Academy of Religion and the Association of Black Anthropologists. I am confident that Marla’s leadership qualities, her academic stature, her wide-ranging curiosity, her collaborative mindset, and her thoughtful and caring approach to all she does will combine to make her an excellent new dean. 

This search offered me a fortuitous opportunity to become well acquainted with Harvard Divinity School in the early days of my new appointment. Provost Garber and I are grateful to the many people across HDS and beyond who generously communicated their thoughts, experiences, and advice during the search. We owe special thanks to the members of the faculty advisory committee, whose insights were invaluable in guiding the search and whose counsel helped us to arrive at this excellent outcome. 

In addition, I want to thank David Holland, the John A. Bartlett Professor of New England Church History, for agreeing to serve as interim dean from September 1 through December 31. David will have taken up this work twice in behalf of the Divinity School community, and I cannot overstate my appreciation for his willingness to offer a steady hand through this transition. He is among the most devoted of University citizens.

This is a wonderful day for all of us, and I hope you will join me in warmly welcoming Marla Frederick back to the University as the next dean of Harvard Divinity School. 


P.S. For more, please see the Harvard Gazette article.