Yale Divinity School Milestones, 1822-2012
An exhibit at the Yale Divinity School Library: October 2012 - January 2013

This exhibit commemorates the 190th anniversary of the founding of the Yale Divinity School, the 80th anniversary of the Divinity School's move to its present campus at 409 Prospect Street, and the installation of its fourtheenth dean, Gregory Sterling.

Establishment of the School

Campuses downtown and on Prospect Street

Deans of the Divinity School

Timothy Dwight




Establishment of the Divinity School, 1822

"Timothy Dwight IV (president of Yale from 1795-1817) had long cherished the purpose of building up a Theological Department in connection with the college, and had induced his son ... to form the plan of contributing money for the accomplishment of this design."

This and the following quotations are excerpted from
Yale College: A Sketch of its History by William L. Kingsley, 1879

"Dr. Eleazar T. Fitch was made Professor of Divinity in 1817, and before he had been in office many years the project for such a seminary took a definite form. In 1822, fifteen students of the class to graduate in that year petitioned the Faculty that they might be organized into a theological class. Dr. Fitch supported this request in an elaborate paper addressed to the prudential committee of the Corporation.

The Faculty proceeded to suggest that the great end in view can only be attained by the additional services of a professor devoted to the theological class; to be aided in the Department of Hebrew Criticism by the Professor of Languages; in Sacred Rhetoric by the Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory; and in Greek Criticism and Systematic Theology by the Professor of Divinity'.

The required fund of $20,000 was made up. The Corporation, in their act which established the theological department, founded their proceeding on the fact that one of the principal objects of the pious founders of the college was the education of pious young men for the work of the ministry."

The Rev. Nathaniel W. Taylor, who had been pastor of the First Church in New Haven for ten years, was chosen to fill the newly created professorship, which was named the Dwight Professorship of Didactic Theology in commemoration of the services of President Dwight

Unquestionably the central figure in the seminary was Dr. Taylor. This was not due merely to his intellectual powers or to his magnetic quality as a teacher, but was owing in some degree to the fact that the taste of the time turned strongly in the direction of metaphysical theology. Dr. Taylor blended the attributes of a philosopher and an orator; of a philosopher subtle, logical, and strong to deal with the most intricate inquiries; of an orator whose conceptions were vivid as well as clear, and whose earnest and impressive delivery enabled him to enchain the attention and sway the feeling of his hearers.

In 1826, Mr. Josiah W. Gibbs was appointed Professor of Sacred Literature, both of the Hebrew and Greek

Professor Gibbs was the scholar of the Faculty: patient, accurate, thorough, and conscientious in all his researches, cautious and naturally skeptical in his intellectual habit, but with a profound religious sense, and a candor more beautiful than the highest gifts of intellect.

"Professor Chauncey Goodrich was not formally appointed to the professorship of the pastoral charge until 1839, but from the beginning his relations to the professors were so intimate, and his services to the seminary so constant, that we commonly think of him as virtually a member of the Faculty from the outset.

He was possessed of a practical tact, a power of finding means for ends, a readiness and shrewdness which, in connection with his familiarity with the world of men, his self-denying benevolence and his catholic spirit, qualified him to render services to the institution for which his colleagues were less competent "

Rebuilding the Faculty

In the period immediately following the Civil War, Yale Divinity School was on the verge of closing. Even before the war, attendance had declined from an average of eighty-seven during the years 1838 to 1843 to only twenty-two in 1858. The main reason for decline was obviously not the war but that the old faculty was dead, dying, or decrepit. Taylor died in 1858, Goodrich in 1860, Gibbs in 1861, and though Fitch lived until 1871, he was in practical retirement.

The school would have been closed save the second Timothy Dwight, grandson of the first. His task was at once to secure endowments and buildings, recruit a new faculty, and enlarge the curriculum.

By 1867, Dwight reported assets totaling $250,000, including gifts that endowed the Titus Street Professorship of Ecclesiastical History, Buckingham Professorship of Sacred Literature, Holmes Professorship of Hebrew Language and Literature, and Winkley Professorship in Biblical Theology. "

This and the following quotations are excerpted
from Yale and the Ministry by Roland H. Bainton, 1957)

New faculty who were hired to replace the old guard that had passed away included:

James M. Hoppin
Professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology

George Edward Day Professor of Hebrew and Biblical Theology

George Park Fisher
Professor of Ecclesiastical History

Leonard Bacon
Professor of Doctrinal Theology


'A Permanent Habitation' - the original campus downtown

All of these new chairs were in need of 'a permanent habitation,' as Leonard Bacon phrased it. The school had never been adequately housed. Taylor and Gibbs had at first lectured in rooms above the old chapel. Divinity Hall constructed in 1835 to '36 had no classrooms and in any case was conceded to the theological department only under the express stipulation that it might at any time be reclaimed by the academic. In 1866 the claim was pressed.

The Divinity School began casting about for new funds and a new site. The most favored location was the corner of College and Elm across from the Methodist Church, directly in line with a diagonal crossing the Green. The laying of the cornerstone on September 22 [1869] was observed with impressive exercises, commencing in Center Church at half past two. Leonard Bacon presiding, rejoiced that they were about to lay the cornerstone of an edifice to stand for ages. It was demolished in 1931.

The building when completed was pronounced by the undergraduate College Courant to be a fine specimen of the renaissance style,' giving the effect 'not so much of splendor as of massiveness and chaste elegance.'

East and West Divinity Halls, corner of Elm Street and College Street

Corridor East Divinity Hall


"The cornerstone of the original Marquand Chapel, next to the new Divinity School building on Elm Street, was laid in 1871."

The chapel was made possible by the munificence of Frederick Marquand of Southport, Connecticut. Mr. Marquand then contributed half the expense for another dormitory, eighty thousand dollars on condition that within a stipulated time the remainder be subscribed. It was, and the companion building erected. The two dormitories were called East and West Divinity. In 1908 the names were changed respectively to Edwards and Taylor Halls.

Original Marquand Chapel

Interior of the original Marquand Chapel

Trowbridge Reference Library

Exterior and interior of the original Day Missions Library. The Day Missions Library was established in 1891 by George Edward Day, a professor of Hebrew language and literature, and his wife, Olivia Hotchkiss Day.

A New Campus for the Divinity School

In 1932 the Divinity School moved to its present location. Its old campus on Elm Street had become too small for the growing population of students; the University also decided to use that site to construct a new residential college, now Calhoun College.

Originally the new Divinity School campus was to be located on the corner of Hillhouse Avenue at Sachem Street, where the School of Management stands today.

The Hillhouse tract was never developed. It proved too small for the growing Divinity School. Before construction began, Luther Weigle, then dean of the Divinity School, encouraged the Yale Corporation to purchase land north of the campus on Prospect Street, a site owned by the Winchester family, of Winchester Repeating Arms."

This and the following quotations are excerpted from Building Divinity, by John Cook, (1994)


Winchester mansion formerly on site of YDS Prospect Street campus

Design of the new campus

William Adams Delano, architect of new YDS campus on Prospect Street

"One of the strongest influences on William Adams Delano's design for the new Yale Divinity School was the 18 th century Thomas Jefferson plan for the University of Virginia, completed in 1826. Delano's decision to respect the Jefferson plan was not independent of a larger movement underway in architecture in the United States in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

By 1925, Welles Bosworth, a professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, influenced architects to turn away from designing separated, individual structures to complexes of buildings that had a radiating core and connecting structure, buildings that created an environment for a community. Under Bosworth's influence, many architects used the University of Virginia pattern as a master plan for schools around the country.

It is Delano's variation on the Jeffersonian plan, and the unique features he introduced, that turn it into so extraordinary a place.

In Delano's drawings, the chapel becomes the central focus for a campus that radiates from it. In contrast, the focus of the University of Virginia, its central monument, is the library.

Delano has created an extraordinary Greco-Roman frame of reference, a formal dialogue rendered in Georgian Colonial brickwork and expressed in the enveloping eight facades on the interior of the Quadrangle".

The new Quadrangle and Marquand Chapel


Deans of the Divinity School


George Edward Day


George Park Fisher


From Yale and the Ministry, by Roland H. Bainton:

In 1901, Yale President Arthur Hadley proposed that the Divinity School institute an administrative dean. Hitherto the dean had been little more than a presiding officer at faculty meetings. Frank K. Sanders was chosen for the post. He came from the field of Semitics in the College and consented to be dean in the hope of promoting his discipline. However, what the School needed at that juncture was not a shot of Semitics. Sanders' primary commission was to raise money. When after four years he ended with a deficit, Hadley saw no way out but to impose tuition on the Divinity students. When the matter came to a vote in the Divinity School faculty, Bacon and Walker were in favor; Stevens, Curtis, Brastow, and Porter were opposed. The motion was lost. Sanders resigned.

Frank Knight Sanders


Edward Lewis Curtis
Acting Dean, 1905-1911


Then it was that Edward L. Curtis was appointed Acting Dean. In 1905 the outlook alike for funds and students was most bleak. Curtis was a scholar and did not relish administration and money raising, but someone had to step in. If it be said that Timothy Dwight the Younger saved the Divinity School from closing during its first crisis, on the occasion of the second none so fully merits acclaim as Edward L. Curtis, devotedly served by Porter, Bacon, and Walker.

Charles Reynolds Brown


[By 1911]

The School was now definitely on the mend. The great problem now was to secure a dean who would be not only an administrative head but who would relate the School to the wider Church constituency, interdenominational and national in scope.

Charles Reynolds Brown set out at once to recruit students from across the land. During Brown's administration from 1911 to 1928 the advances were marked. The enrollment went from 114 to 162, the faculty from 9 to 15, the funds from close to nine hundred thousand to something over a million and a half. The number of states represented increased from 28 to 36, and the denominations from 10 to 16.

Luther Allan Weigle served for twenty-one years, from 1928 to 1949, when he was succeeded by Liston Pope . The selection of these two men was indicative of a new emphasis. Both were taken, not from the parish ministry, but from the ranks of the teaching profession. Both were already serving on the faculty. At the time of Brown's coming, the decision to call an eminent minister was wise, but in 1928 the need was to raise the educational standards of the school to a par with the other departments of the University.

Luther Allan Weigle


Liston Pope



Charles Forman
Acting Dean, 1961-1963


Robert Clyde Johnson


Robert Clyde Johnson came to Yale as the eighth dean of the Divinity School, serving in the post from 1963 to 1969. As dean, he helped establish a joint degree program in urban studies with the Schools of Art and Architecture and a joint program with the School of Music, which laid the groundwork for the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale. Professor Johnson stepped down from the deanship to return to his teaching as a professor of theology. He was named the Noah Porter Professor of Religion at the Divinity School in 1990 and retired later that year.

The beginning of Colin Williams ' tenure as dean was marked by the Black Panther trials in New Haven.

[Yale President Kingman Brewster] opened the university to the thousands who, under the surveillance of the National Guard, streamed into New Haven to protest the trial of Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers in 1970. With the manifold help of churches and other organizations that provided food and shelter, Yale survived the crisis without the sort of confrontations and disruptions that nearly paralyzed Columbia and Harvard. During that tense spring, 'teach-ins' replaced classes at the Divinity School, led by a newly appointed dean, Colin Williams. Like his predecessor, Robert C. Johnson, Williams devoted many hours to meetings with students and faculty in order to develop responses to the stream of crises.

Leander Keck, Epilogue to Yale and the Ministry

Colin W. Williams


Leander Keck

Leander Keck came to the Divinity School from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, where he had served as professor of New Testament. Following his tenure as dean, he remained on the YDS faculty as Winkley Professor of Biblical Theology.




Aidan Kavanagh
Acting Dean, 1989-1990



Thomas Ogletree

Thomas Ogletree came to the Divinity School from the Theological School of Drew University, where he served as dean and professor of Theological Ethics. Following his tenure as dean, he remained on the YDS faculty as Frederick Marquand Professor of Theological Ethics.

Richard Wood

Richard Wood came to the Divinity School from Earlham College, where he had served as President from 1985 to 1996. Following his tenure as dean, Wood became President of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.

Harry Adams
Acting Dean, 2000-2001


Rebecca Chopp

Before coming to Yale, Rebecca Chopp served as provost at Emory University. She left YDS after one year to become President of Colgate University.


Harold Attridge



Harold Attridge was appointed Professor of New Testament at YDS in 1997, coming from the University of Notre Dame where he taught in the Department of Theology and served as dean of the College of Arts and Letters. Earlier this year Atridge was named to a Sterling Professorship, the highest honor that can be conferred upon a member of the Yale faculty. Following a year sabbatical he will return to teach at YDS.





Gregory Sterling


Gregory Sterling comes to Yale from the University of Notre Dame where he was dean of the Graduate School and professor of theology.




© 2012 Yale University Library
Last modified: 23 October 2012
URL: http://www.library.yale.edu/div/exhibits/YDSMilestones.htm
Please send comments to: Divinity.Library@yale.edu.