Porter Chair Puts BDS at Forefront of Environmental Stewardship

Dear Friends of Berkeley Divinity School,

Significant benefactions to an institution can sometimes lead the way to opening new and unexpected possibilities and ambitions, even while reinforcing the institution’s core mission.

BrittonWe are blessed to be able to announce that we have received just such a gift, namely, an endowment to establish the “H. Boone and Violet M. Porter Chair in Religion and Environmental Stewardship.” This senior faculty position, to be funded by BDS and jointly appointed through Yale Divinity School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, honors the memory of two individuals who had a remarkable impact on the Episcopal Church. Violet had a life-long love for and commitment to the Church. And as a scholar, priest, writer, and environmentalist, Boone Porter ’45 B.A., ’50 S.T.B., ’96 M.E.S., ’97 D.D. helped to shape the spiritual and intellectual life of the Church over the course of an entire generation.

When the Rev. Nicholas T. Porter ’86 B.A., ’94 M.Div. first approached Berkeley and Yale on behalf of the Porter Foundation about its interest in endowing a chair in religion and ecology in Boone and Violet’s memory, such an idea represented a real growing edge—not only for Berkeley, but for the divinity and forestry schools as well. Together with other Foundation board members Gabrielle Porter Dennison, Esq., and Stuart R. Kensinger ’86 B.A., we have worked hard to define the vision behind this gift. As we mutually explored this proposal, its importance in drawing together the theological and prophetic insights of religious conviction, with the scientific and policy concerns of environmental science, became ever more evident.

PorterThe chair will of course provide for research and scholarship in the area of religion and ecology, but will also play a pivotal role in building the joint degree program that already exists between the divinity and forestry schools. As the Foundation’s vision document puts it, the program will enable “a new integration that is not possible within any single school or discipline.”

For Berkeley, this gift is not only an important contribution to addressing the urgent ecological issues of our day—it also places the seminary in the forefront of theological education in the Episcopal Church, vividly demonstrating the larger horizon in a university divinity school. Moreover, by committing Berkeley to a partnership with other professional schools at Yale, it reflects the seminary’s maturation as a full participant in the life of the wider university, contributing not only to the academic life of the institution, but to its outreach into society as well.

In addition, the endowment for a Porter professorship is reinforced by a concurrent gift of Boone Porter’s papers from the entire Porter family (which also includes H. Boone Porter III, Esq. ’72 B.A., Clarissa H. Porter, Esq., ’82 B.A., and Charlotte M. Porter, Ph.D.). This collection has been deposited in the Divinity Library through the particular efforts of Boone Porter III. Among the essays that one could read there would be one from Father Porter’s book, A Song of Creation, in which he wrote, commenting on the lesson of the great flood described in Genesis:

What is very notable is that so long ago, when there were far fewer people on this earth and many more animals, God’s message could be received, that life on this earth is fragile, and we must accept a major responsibility for its continuance.

We look forward to the blossoming of a lively program in religion and environmental stewardship at Yale that will reflect this prophetic conviction and prepare men and women to address its ethical and scientific challenges. Our gratitude to the Porter family for the gift that will make this possible is, indeed, profound.

Faithfully yours,

Joseph Britton