Campus & Community

President Summers Appoints William A. Graham Acting Dean of the Harvard Divinity School

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William A.
William Graham has been named acting dean of the Divinity School. (Staff photo by Stephanie Mitchell)

William A. Graham, Murray A. Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Professor of the History of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, will serve as Acting Dean of the Harvard Divinity School pending the appointment of a permanent dean, President Lawrence H. Summers announced today. The School’s current leader, J. Bryan Hehir, will step down at the end of this month to become President of Catholic Charities, U.S.A. The search for a permanent dean of the School is in progress.

An internationally known scholar of Islamic religious history and the history of religion, Graham has been a member of Harvard’s faculty since 1973. He currently chairs the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; he previously served as Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He is also a member and former Chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion. This Committee, whose members include faculty from the Divinity School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, administers doctoral programs for both Faculties in addition to the undergraduate concentration in the Comparative Study of Religion. Graham is also longtime Master of Currier House and currently chairs the College’s Council of Masters. During the acting deanship, he will continue as Master of Currier House and will teach his spring course in the College Core Program as scheduled.

“Bill Graham is an outstanding scholar, teacher, and talented administrator whose judgment and effective leadership style win wide admiration and praise,” President Summers said. “Harvard’s Divinity School is well-known for its grounding of ministerial and other professional studies within the contexts of religious pluralism and the academic study of world religions, and Bill Graham brings with him an awareness of this important balance. I am grateful for his willingness to take on this role at this crucial moment for the School.”

“I am pleased to be able to respond to President Summers’ request to serve the Divinity School and University in this interim role,” said Graham. “Having worked for nearly thirty years in the Study of Religion with faculty and students from the Divinity School, I hope to collaborate with colleagues within the School and across the University to maintain momentum in key areas. We will be building on the solid groundwork Bryan Hehir has laid for the future, pending the appointment of a permanent dean. I am particularly glad that I will have the support of the School’s strong administrative team as I take on these new responsibilities.”

Graham’s scholarly work has focused on early Islamic religious history and textual traditions and on problems in the history of world religion. In October 2000 he received the quinquennial Award for Excellence in Research in Islamic History and Culture from the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, the research institute of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. He has held John Simon Guggenheim and Alexander von Humboldt research fellowships and is the author of Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion (1987, 1993), and Divine Word and Prophetic Word in Early Islam (1977), which in 1978 won the History of Religions Prize awarded by the American Council of Learned Societies. Graham is co-author of The Heritage of World Civilizations (5th rev. ed., 2000), and co-editor of Islamfiche: Readings from Islamic Primary Sources (1982-87). He is also the author of numerous articles and reviews.

In addition to the administrative posts noted above, Graham has also chaired the Council on Graduate Studies in Religion for the United States and Canada and served on the Committee on the Core Curriculum in Harvard College as chair of the Foreign Cultures Area of the Core.

Graham received his undergraduate degree summa cum laude from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his A.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard.