A Message of Thanks from the Associate Dean for Development and External Relations

November 9, 2020
Lori Stevens is Associate Dean for Development and External Relations at HDS.
Lori Stevens is Associate Dean for Development and External Relations at HDS.

The Harvard Divinity School community that all of you support and help to build—with your involvement, your leadership, and your financial investment—is a remarkable one. 

Together with the faculty, staff, and students of HDS, you are creating the space and preparing the ground for meaningful dialogue, genuine care, and hopeful action, while strengthening the School’s outstanding academic foundations. Since I began in my role here in February, I have been grateful for the sense of community that surrounds all of this and shines through uncertain times. 

Staying connected has been an essential part of that, and we have found new ways to be and learn together. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, spring events, including the Peter J. Gomes, STB ’68 Distinguished Alumni Honors and our annual Dean’s Leadership Forum, were quickly adapted to virtual formats. We will celebrate the 2020 Gomes Honorees in person when we are able, and in the meantime, we were inspired by virtual conversations with them, hosted by the Alumni/Alumnae Council. Every year, the Dean’s Leadership Forum creates a special opportunity for members of our giving societies and volunteer leaders to connect with thought leaders to explore issues in religion, ethics, and contemporary life. This year, with the changes in format, we were heartened by connecting with alumni and friends we rarely get to see all in one place—from across the U.S. and around the globe, including Italy, India, and China. 

We look forward to when we can gather in person again. In the meantime, we have been encouraged 
by seeing the progress on the Swartz Hall renovation. New gathering spaces and technological capacity will allow us to further adapt our programming for those near and far. We are grateful to the Swartz and James families and to all the building donors for their transformative support.

In so many ways, this moment in time has highlighted how religion plays a critical role in our lives—as we navigate complex feelings and beliefs around grief and loss; draw strength from communities and faith traditions; and seek to bridge religious and cultural divides. It has also focused attention more keenly on great challenges: economic inequality, racial injustice, and climate change. Facing these challenges will require new forms of understanding and ethical leadership in all fields of public engagement. As reflected in Dean Hempton’s letter and the collection of stories here, this community continues to rise to these challenges in inspiring ways. Thank you for being part of it.


Lori Stevens
Associate Dean for Development and External Relations