Sudden Impact

February 9, 2016
HDS Field Experience
HDS students with children during Nicaraguan field experience.

Only two years after its launch in April 2014, the Campaign for HDS is already having an impact on every aspect of the School's mission.

New professorships enable HDS to extend its expertise in the study of the world's religious traditions and the ways that they influence every area of human activity. Events and new programming put the School at the center of "One Harvard" and of the public discussion of religion. New funds for financial aid and for experiential learning allow students to attend HDS and make the most of their time here.  

"The campaign has strengthened our ability to advance the study of religion," says Dean David N. Hempton. "It's enabled us to increase our contribution to wider Harvard through interdisciplinary scholarship and programs like Religions and the Practice of Peace. It's made it possible for us to bring world leaders to HDS to address religion's influence on challenges, like global peace and security, climate change, and the abuse of women and girls. The campaign has also made HDS a better place by enabling us to bring the world's students to HDS, and by supporting learning experiences that bring our students back out into the world."

Illuminate: Advancing Understanding of the Ways that Religion Shapes the World

Professor Jonathan Walton

HDS's core mission is teaching and research on religion. So it's not surprising that over one-half of the $26 million raised so far is targeted to these areas.

In March 2015, HDS announced the appointment of the Susan Shallcross Swartz Professor of the Practice of Christian Studies. Established with a gift from Susan and Jim Swartz, the new chair will be at the center of HDS's effort to educate the religious leaders of the future.

Ms. Swartz has high praise for the professorship's first occupant, the Rev. Stephanie Paulsell.

"Professor Paulsell is someone whose scholarship not only deepens students' understanding of Christianity, but also of the principles, ethics, faith, and reason that inspire people around the world," she says.

Another new chair will enable HDS to shed new light on the way that religion influences a field often seen as its opposite: business. The School's new Professorship of Religion, Business Ethics, and the Economic Order is a cross-faculty venture with Harvard Business School to explore ways that economic prosperity and busi­ness development can serve the greater good.

"I'm excited to see and hear what this new colleague will bring to the growing multidisciplinarity of our faculty," says David C. Lamberth, Professor of Philosophy and Theology at HDS. "With this gift, we will be able to make these forays a permanent fea­ture of our work."

The campaign has also provided a boost to the scholars of HDS's pioneering Women's Studies in Religion Program (WSRP). Established by a group of the WSRP's most dedicated supporters, the half-million dollar Constance H. Buchanan Endowment will provide support for the program’s research associates, making the program more competitive and able to draw the best scholars in the field.

"The new endowment provides sustained support for the five extraordinary scholars that WSRP brings to campus each year," says the program's director, Ann Braude. "It will enable us to continue to push the limits of what we know about women and religion—a fitting tribute to the visionary leadership of WSRP's founding director, Connie Buchanan."

"Visionary" is also a good way to describe the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation's gift to establish the HDS Buddhist Ministry Initiative (BMI). The first of its kind at a divinity school within a research university, the gift supports coursework in Buddhist ministry studies, faculty, experiential learning opportunities, and international fellowships that bring Buddhist students, scholars, and monastics to HDS from around the world.

"The BMI allows students to study ministry in Buddhist contexts as part of HDS's progressive and socially engaged program," said Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies. "It also allows ministry studies at HDS to expand and benefit from the rich resources of Buddhist literature, thought, practices, and communities."

Co-chair of the Campaign for HDS Tom Chappell, MTS '91, says that the increase in resources from the campaign means that HDS can bring critical scholarship to leaders who need it.

"By funding new teaching and research, the campaign makes it possible for our faculty and students to contribute knowledge that makes a difference in the world," he says. "Moreover, it makes their work more available to leaders working to solve problems in a host of fields—from interreligious understanding to ethical business."

Engage: Putting the Study of Religion at the Center of One Harvard

Dean Hempton and Jimmy Carter

The campaign has also made it possible for HDS to bring leaders from religion, government, and many other fields to campus for critical discussions on global challenges.

In addition to its support for ministry education, the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation's gift enabled HDS to host a wide range of public events on Buddhism, including international conferences that connect leaders from Asia and the United States. The BMI also sponsored a visit from one of the world's most distinguished young spiritual leaders, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, for a talk on "Caring for Life on Earth in the Twenty-first Century."

"It was an historic occasion for Harvard Divinity School to welcome this wonderful and visionary young leader of Tibetan Buddhism for the first time," says Gyatso, who notes that the foundation's gift not only brought the Karmapa to HDS, but 11 visiting scholars from countries that include Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Along with establishing a professorship, the $10 million Susan Shallcross Swartz Endowment for Christian Studies provided support for a landmark address by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who called abuse and violence toward women and girls "the number one unaddressed issue involving human rights on a global basis." The Swartz Endowment also helped bring Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih, the Middle East's first female judge in the religious courts, to HDS for a conversation about women and Shari’a law in Islam.

"President Carter is a striking example of what we mean at Harvard Divinity School when we speak of bringing religious resources to bear on life and the world's greatest challenges," says Dean Hempton. "The conversation with Judge Al-Faqih demonstrates the School's global reach and our ability to bring leaders to campus for discussions that take place at the intersection of religion, law, gender, and human rights. We're deeply grateful for Susan's gift and her ongoing effort to bring people together at HDS."

Ms. Swartz, a co-chair of the Campaign for HDS whose gift was among the largest ever given to the School, says she's excited about the way that the campaign has raised the visibility of the study of religion.

"The School has, for many years, been a center for scholarship on global religion," she says. "Thanks to the campaign, HDS is now using its convening power to bring leaders like President Jimmy Carter and the Karmapa to campus and to emphasize the importance of religious knowledge in dealing with global challenges."

Serve: Support for Leaders Who Work for a Better World

Angie Thurston

The Campaign for HDS has strengthened the School's ability to have a direct impact on the world by educating men and women who devote their lives to service—whether through religious leadership, human rights work, peacebuilding, or a wide range of other fields.  

Student financial aid is the foundation of this effort. To date, HDS has raised nearly $5 million to recruit the most talented, devoted students from around the world and make it possible for them to come to HDS regardless of their financial circumstances. These gifts will also enable graduates to leave HDS and go wherever they are called—from a prison classroom to the U.S. Department of State—unencumbered by educational debt.

Kimberly Berkey studied the ancient Near East as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University in Utah. She took a break from school to have a family, but says she "always threatened to pursue graduate work" once her kids got a bit older. Support from the Elizabeth H. Monrad Scholarship Fund—recently expanded with a campaign gift from Ms. Monrad and her husband Ernest—made it possible for her to come to HDS to study philosophy of religion.

"This opportunity came at a wonderful time for our family," Berkey says. "The Monrad Scholarship has blessed not only my individual career trajectory, but also my husband and my children, who will grow up with the example of a mother following her passions."

The campaign has also provided tens of thousands of dollars for new field education opportunities that give students the real world experience they need to take on big challenges. It's hard to find a thornier issue in American politics, for instance, than immigration. Thanks to funds from the Campaign for HDS, 15 students in Professor Diane Moore's course, "Border Crossings: Immigration in America," traveled from the Boston area to Tucson, Arizona, where they spent part of their spring break engaging with all sides of the immigration issue.

Moore says that the trip, made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation, was "an opportunity for students to have discussions with all different kinds of players in this challenging situation."

"This is a question about what it means to be an American," she explains, "to say that we are, and to take pride in our multicultural, multireligious diversity, yet have policies that are so profoundly discordant with that value. Bringing HDS students to Tucson helped them think about how to facilitate better conversations about these really challenging questions, which we have very little experience doing in public discourse today."

Emily Click, assistant dean for ministry studies, says that HDS integrates highly academic learning with first-rate experiential opportunities. She says this is one of the main reasons why HDS stands out among peer institutions.

The School's pioneering Buddhist Ministry Initiative gives students the option to complete their field education requirements in dharma centers, as well as hospitals, nonprofits, social service organizations, schools, and universities. Click says that campaign gifts enable the School to provide opportunities that are "unparalleled" in theological education.

"Money makes a difference," Click says. "If you're underfunded, it's like driving an old car with bad tires on a road with potholes: every quarter mile you have to get out and change the tire. HDS gives me the resources to empower students whose imaginations exceed my own."

Innovate: Expanding the Boundaries of the Study of Religion

Barakat Bundle

The campaign's most immediate and far-reaching impact may actually come from current use gifts that support Dean Hempton's vision for the School. That's because most of HDS's revenue comes from endowment income—more so than any other school at Harvard, in fact. These funds are overwhelmingly restricted to the use specified by the donor—whether the gift was made in 1816 or 2016. Such strictures leave HDS few resources with which to pursue new ideas and to innovate in a rapidly changing world.

Foremost among the areas Dean Hempton would like to explore is what HDS can do to promote peace. As one of the few places where scholars and students of vastly different religions come together to learn from one another, HDS could be an invaluable resource to leaders seeking to understand religion's influence on conflict, international relations, global health, and other fields.

It was this potential that inspired HDS alumna Rev. Karen Vickers Budney and her husband Albert Budney to make a major gift, which the School will use to boost the new initiative on Religions and the Practice of Peace. (See accompanying story.) Rev. Budney says that the Dean's efforts to put peace at the center of the School's work, combined with his personal history, convinced her and her husband that the initiative was worthy of their support.

"For the last two years, Dean Hempton has brought scholars, diplomats, and policy makers to HDS to discuss peace," she says. "As a native of Northern Ireland who witnessed religiously motivated violence firsthand, the Dean also has a devotion to peace—and a vision for promoting it—that needs to be shared with the Harvard community and the world beyond. We share that vision, and believe that we can best support it through a financial contribution to RPP."

Katherine Collins, MTS '11, has a passion for another area of innovation at HDS: ethics in business and economics. She spent much of her time at HDS exploring the topic and then put this knowledge into practice when she founded Honeybee Capital, a new kind of research firm dedicated to socially responsible investing. Her campaign gift to the Dean's Fund will support "meaningful engagement between students and faculty at the Divinity School and Harvard Business School."

"It is an invitation to integrate values and value," she says. "To bring great minds together around these topics, you need to create opportunities for structured engagement and room for exploration. I am excited that my gift will help do this at HDS."

"We're just getting started."

The School will continue to advance all of these priorities throughout the campaign's remaining two years. Even as it does, however, HDS will put special focus on a critical need: the renewal of the School's main classroom building and the heart of the HDS campus, Andover Hall.

HDS has launched a $50 million fundraising effort to support the comprehensive revitalization of Andover Hall, which includes an opportunity to name the iconic building. When complete, the renewed space will transform the ways that students and scholars of different religions engage the world and each other through the creation of:

  • A true campus center that brings Andover-Harvard Theological Library and the School's core academic resources together with student services and social space;
  • New space for public conversations on religion with leaders and scholars throughout academia;
  • Modernized classrooms ideally suited to new ways of teaching and learning, with flexible spaces and a new multimedia infrastructure;
  • A multifaith chapel where Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and all members of the HDS community may gather to worship, perform, and share experiences.

Perhaps most important, the Andover renewal will be an extension of the School's mission to foster ethical leadership. With gold certification for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), the project will address the moral imperative of our time—the need to combat catastrophic climate change—and, in the words of the Green Building Council, "have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy."

Hannah Peters, associate dean for development and external relations, says that the Campaign for HDS has already been a success. The School's upcoming bicentennial, however, will be a perfect springboard to the next phase—and to bigger and better things.

"As HDS looks to its third century, the campaign will ensure that it realizes its potential as a training ground for scholars of religion and ethical leaders who work for a better world," she says. "Alumni and friends are participating in the life of the School in new ways. We've raised millions of dollars to advance our mission to 'illuminate, engage, and serve.' And we're just getting started."

—by Paul Massari