Letter from External Relations

Hannah Peters

Dear friends,

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions," Henry David Thoreau wrote, "perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." Thoreau might have been speaking of Harvard Divinity School students. For nearly 200 years, critical thinkers have stepped out of the mainstream and into the School's intellectually rigorous environment, exemplifying Thoreau's call to "give me truth" rather "than money, than fame."

In many ways, HDS is a kind of "Walden" for our times. Welcoming of all faiths, but aligned with none, the Divinity School inspires reflection through a curriculum that is one of the most challenging and global at Harvard. This self-exploration leads to vocations as diverse as our student body but shares a common thread—to make the world a better place. It also leads to thinkers who have a profound influence on the American mind—from Thoreau's friend and HDS alumnus Ralph Waldo Emerson, who famously admonished the School's graduating class of 1838 to "speak the very truth, as your life and conscience teach it, and cheer the waiting, fainting hearts of men with new hope and new revelation," to the late Rev. Peter J. Gomes, STB '68, who implored "human beings to live up to their full humanity . . . to live in the full implication of our human gifts."

The impact of the HDS experience goes well beyond intellectual life, though. Like Tom Chappell, MTS '91, who created a new model of sustainable business practice, our students change the world by changing the rules. Like Jared Oubre, MTS '14, who spent last summer in service to the street children of Nicaragua, they see things most of us don't—or don't want to. Like Arleigh Prelow, MDiv '13, who pursued her ministry of filmmaking while living with cancer, they see hope and possibilities many of us struggle to imagine. As the world faces unprecedented challenges—from the preservation of the environment, to global health, international security, and economic prosperity—there's never been a greater need for these kinds of religiously literate leaders, in all fields, who act ethically, with compassion and creativity.

On April 4, 2014, we formally launch the Campaign for Harvard Divinity School to ensure that this distinctive model of education—and the leaders it produces—continues throughout the twenty-first century. I invite you to campus to meet our remarkable students, to hear their stories, and to be amazed. Now more than ever, the world needs critical thinkers with courage, understanding, and imagination. Now more than ever, the world needs HDS.

Thank you for everything you do to advance the School and its mission.


Hannah T. Peters
Associate Dean for External Relations

Go to the 2013 Dean's Report.