Divinity Tomorrow capital campaign celebrated as total approaches $38 million goal

A gala dinner celebrating the Divinity Tomorrow capital campaign was the high point of a series of May 4-6 meetings at which Yale Divinity School’s leadership boards were praised by Yale President Richard Levin and University Secretary Linda Lorimer, among others.

“I just want to add my thanks to all of you, for your loyalty, your involvement,” said Levin at the end of a talk he delivered to the boards on May 5 in Marquand Chapel.  “A place like this needs devoted alumni and friends who give some time, give advice, give money, who show up and care.  I know that you all care intensely about this place.”

LevinLevin’s comments came just two months before the end of the five-year campaign, which has raised approximately $36 million of the $38 million campaign goal through hundreds of gifts, pledges, bequests, and planned gifts.   The campaign, which ends June 30, has resulted in creation of three endowed faculty chairs; expansion of YDS’s global reach; over three dozen new endowed student scholarships; and facilities improvements.

Lorimer made her remarks later in the day at the dinner, which featured entertainment by a Yale Divinity-linked instrumental group, the Theodicy Jazz Collective, and the viewing of a special YDS promotional video. The dinner, held next door to Sterling Divinity Quadrangle at the new Greenberg Conference Center, was also aimed at celebrating the collaborative spirit of the boards present, including the YDS Board of Advisors, the YDS Alumni Board, the Board of Trustees of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, and the Board of Advisors of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.

Before a packed audience, Lorimer referred to “the extraordinary leadership in this room” and pointed to recent YDS-supported activities as providing leadership at the University for the kinds of global functions the Greenberg Center is intended to encourage.

Said Lorimer, “You can be proud, and we can be grateful, that we believe that this school . . . really informs our interests as a university.”

For his part, also at the dinner, Yale Divinity Dean Harold Attridge said, “I want to thank you all for what you’ve done, thank you for your generosity, for your individual words of encouragement,” noting that the first thing he had done that day was to check his spreadsheet for the capital campaign. “Stay tuned, because the campaign is not over, but it’s far enough along so that I believe we can indeed celebrate.”

He noted that conversations were under way that could lead to “another gift or two of a significant sort” before June 30.

The promotional film shown at the dinner outlines some of the accomplishments of the campaign and features comments by Attridge; Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Emilie Townes; Joseph Britton, dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale; and a number of YDS students.

In the film, Attridge says, “The Divinity Tomorrow campaign has elicited a wonderful response from our alums and from friends of the school, from alums of Yale University that have an interest in fostering religious leadership.”

Among the major campaign accomplishments noted in the film, which elicited a loud round of applause from the audience, are creation of three endowed faculty chairs; expansion of YDS’s global reach, including an increase in enrollment of international students and extension of the school’s travel seminar program; and a boost in student financial aid that raises scholarship assistance from 55 percent of tuition revenue in 2002 to 80 percent at present.

TheodicyEndowed chairs established over the course of the campaign are the Margaret Farley chair in social ethics; the Rev. Henry L. Slack deanship; and, in partnership with Berkeley Divinity School, the H. Boone and Violet M. Porter Chair in Religion and Environmental Stewardship.

On behalf of Berkeley, BDS Dean Joseph Britton lauded the BDS/YDS collaboration, saying that, working together, the two schools “reinforce and invigorate one another” and have “intertwining ambitions and aspirations.”

Christopher Sawyer ’75 M.Div., an Atlanta-based lawyer who serves as cochair of the YDS Board of Advisors, referred to   “the wonderful success of this campaign” and pointed to how far the School has come since the time in 1996 when scaffolding was added to the Marquand Chapel steeple to prevent one of its columns from falling off.

“It’s really important to stop for a moment and remember where we were,” remarked Sawyer. “Our facilities were in shambles.”

“Look at where we are today,” he said, noting that YDS boasts “one of the prettiest campuses in the world,” provides financial aid to almost all of its students, has a faculty that is the “best and brightest,” and has “global programs more extensive than ever in the history of the school.”

“We’re global, we’re ecumenical, we’ve got a focus on the ministry, and we’ve got Yale,” Sawyer concluded.  “ Those are exceptional traits, and nobody can match that.”

In the final weeks of the campaign, and into the following months, YDS fundraising efforts will focus in several areas, including: global education and partnership; congregational leadership and ministerial preparation; educational leadership and ministry; faith and ecology initiatives; and scholarships for Roman Catholic students.

Beyond the fundraising, Dean Attridge will put particular emphasis on completion of the school’s long-range self-study, which sets out the School’s goals for the next decade; and working with the faculty to make critical faculty appointments in core fields such as theology, Bible, and ethics.

Posted: 06/03/2011