$3 million gift pledged in support of endowed chair in religion and environmental stewardship

A gift pledge of $3 million will endow a joint senior faculty appointment between Yale Divinity School/Berkeley Divinity School and the School of Forestry and Environmental studies in honor of H. Boone Porter ’45 B.A., ’50 S.T.B., ’96 M.E.S., ’97 D.D. and his wife, Violet M. Porter.

GiftThe endowment promises to substantially enhance the interdisciplinary study of theology and the environment that has taken hold at Yale in recent years, culminating in the establishment of a joint degree program.  The gift, finalized on Nov. 29, comes from the children of the Porters through the Porter Foundation. Boone Porter, who died in 1999, was a scholar, priest, writer, and environmentalist, and both he and his wife had a particularly significant impact on the life of the Episcopal Church.

With the gift, the capital campaign of Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School, YDS’s Episcopal Church affiliate, will have reached a total of $34 million in gifts and pledges representing 90 percent of the $38 million combined goal for the two schools.  Berkeley will have raised $6.75 million in gifts toward its $8 million goal.

Yale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge said, “This gift from the Porter Foundation will ensure that the collaboration that has developed in recent years between Yale Divinity School and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies will continue and expand into an even more fruitful partnership.   The environmental challenges that we face involve not only scientific and technical issues, but also issues of fundamental values and moral commitments.”

Peter Crane, dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, said, “We are delighted and humbled by the commitment of the Porter family and truly excited by the new opportunity to further develop the already-strong connections between religion and environmental stewardship at Yale.”

In a letter sent to the friends of BDS, Berkeley Dean Joseph Britton commented, “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.

H. Boone Porter Papers at Yale Divinity School Library

The personal papers of H. Boone Porter were donated to the Yale Divinity School Library by the Porter family, with the guidance of H. Boone Porter III, Esq. '72 B.A., in the spring of 2010.  Consisting of 35 linear feet of material contained in 84 archival boxes, the H. Boone Porter Papers provide thorough documentation of Porter’s work as liturgical scholar, professor, pastor, administrator, and author.

The papers are divided into 10 series, including: Correspondence, Sermons, Writings, Research Materials, Course-related Materials, Organizations Served and Biographical Documentation.  More than 60 folders of sermons are arranged according to the church year and date from 1953 to 1999.

Writings include Porter’s dissertation as well as book-length works, articles, essays, and reviews. Course-related materials include academic work from Porter’s time as a student at Berkeley Divinity School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, as well as notes and syllabi for courses he taught at Nashotah House and General Theological Seminary.

The documentation of organizations served, such as the Council of Associated Parishes, Leadership Academy for New Directions, and Standing Liturgical Commission, will constitute a major source for research on the development of liturgy in the Episcopal Church as well as Episcopal initiatives in continuing education and self-supporting ministry.  There are, for example, 24 folders of material documenting the work of the Ordination Rites committee of the Standing Liturgical Commission dating from 1967 to 1977.

The final deed of gift was delivered to Deans Attridge and Britton on Nov. 11, 2010.

An online finding aid for the H. Boone Porter Papers is available here.  The collection is open for the use of qualified researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Yale Divinity School Library.  Please contact the Special Collections Librarian, Martha Smalley, for more information.

“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."

A bunch of boxesYDS has been in the forefront of the burgeoning religion/ecology synthesis and created the nation’s first joint Master’s degree program in religion and the environment.  Within the past five years, internationally acclaimed eco-religionists John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker came to Yale, along with their Forum on Religion and Ecology, and environmental ethicist Willis Jenkins was the first scholar appointed the Margaret Farley Assistant Professor of Social Ethics at YDS.

Several major conferences on religion and the environment have been co-hosted recently by YDS, one in April 2006, another in February-March 2008, and a third in April 2010. YDS alumni have been, and continue to be, active in the field, from nationally prominent figures like theologian Sallie McFague ’59 B.D., ’64 Ph.D. and environmental lawyer Christopher Sawyer ’75 M.Div., former chair of the national Board of Directors of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), to grassroots activists such as Carla Pryne ’79 M.Div., first executive director of Earth Ministry in Seattle, and Leslie G. Woods ’05 M.A.R., representative for domestic poverty and environmental issues in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Washington Office.

The Rev. Nicholas T. Porter ’86 B.A., ’94 M. Div., president of the Porter Foundation and a trustee of Berkeley Divinity School, said, “When we were considering how best to honor the legacy of my father and mother, establishing a new faculty position at Berkeley and Yale was the obvious choice.

“As a graduate of Yale College, Berkeley Divinity School, and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, my father knew that his work and life was deeply shaped, informed and enriched by these great institutions. As a memorial to both him and my mother, we are delighted to be able to similarly enrich the lives and studies of future students of Berkeley and Yale.”

Tucker said, "The field of religion and ecology is growing at a rapid rate. The Porter Chair is a sign of this growth and will be the first such chair in the United States. It is an historic moment and a great contribution, not only to Yale Divinity School but to seminary education across the country and beyond. We are all deeply grateful and energized by this path-breaking news."

Stephen Blackmer, a current divinity student and 1983 graduate of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, described Boone Porter as a “visionary priest, liturgist, artist, teacher, writer, and natural historian who dreamt of fostering a creative harmony between science and theology.”

He added, “Boone Porter recognized that the ecological problems facing us now are ancient, pervasive, and deeply human problems that transcend the scientific age, and that these problems have grown immeasurably more complex and urgent as human ability to manipulate the physical world has increased.”

Porter and SmalleyBoone Porter began a teaching career at Nashotah House, an Episcopal seminary near Milwaukee, WI, then was appointed the first tenured professor of liturgy at The General Theological Seminary in New York City.  Later in his career he was editor of the weekly magazine The Living Church, a publication focused on the Anglican tradition. He also had a major role in the development of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

“The 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,” Britton observed.  “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.’”

Attridge noted, “Religious communities committed to an ethic of environmental stewardship need the insights of contemporary science and the environmentalists need the passion and commitment of religious communities if we are to mount an adequate response to the challenges that we face.  This chair, given in memory of H. Boone and Violet Porter, who had strong connections to both the religious and environmental communities, will substantially further the goal of bringing those two communities together.”

In addition to the endowment for a Porter professorship, the Porter family also donated Boone Porter’s papers to Yale, working especially through H. Boone Porter III, Esq. ’72 B.A.  They have been deposited in the Yale Divinity School Library, and document the fecundity of Boone Porter’s lifelong commitment both to the church and environment.

Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School, a seminary of the Episcopal Church, began their affiliation in 1971.  Berkeley maintains an independent board of trustees and dean, but both schools are located on the Yale campus at Sterling Divinity Quadrangle.  Berkeley students receive Yale degrees, along with a diploma or certificate in Anglican studies from Berkeley.