Former Duke Divinity School Dean Richard B. Hays was honored on Oct. 23 with a celebration of his deanship and the unveiling of his official portrait. (Watch the video.)
Hays, who was installed as the 12th dean of the Divinity School on Aug. 31, 2010, stepped down from the deanship in August of this year to begin treatment for pancreatic cancer. He had originally intended to step down in June 2016 and return to teaching as a professor.
At the celebration, Interim Dean Ellen Davis read a message from Duke University President Richard Brodhead, who wrote that he most admired the former dean’s “temper as a scholar,” saying that for Hays, “scholarship has been not a profession but a calling, a consecrated life’s work.”
Other speakers included Duke University Provost Sally Kornbluth; Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, a trustee of the University; Dr. Dan Blazer, chair of the Divinity School’s Board of Visitors; Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology; Kavin Rowe, associate professor of New Testament; and Lester Ruth, research professor of Christian worship. Hays also spoke.
Davis unveiled the former dean’s portrait, which was painted in 2012 by Whittier Wright. The 30” x 28” oil on canvas work shows him seated at a table in front of an open Bible and will hang in the Alumni Memorial Common Room.
Davis shared a message from Wright, who worked with Hays and his wife Judy on the composition: “When I asked Judy if she had a favorite photo of Richard, she said she rather had a favorite experience with him. She described their time at the end of a working day when the two of them would relax and talk around their supper table on the back porch. Later in the conversation I learned that Richard considered his primary gift was that of a teacher. So joining those two concepts seemed to me a good approach to his portrait—that is, meeting at table, with the meal composed of the Word of God.”
The Bible in the painting is open to the page containing Romans 8:31-39, which Hays named as being closest to the heart of his faith. The passage concludes: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Davis also announced that the Hayses have established two endowments: the Richard and Judith Hays Theology and the Arts Endowment Fund and the Richard and Judith Hays New Testament Scholarship Endowment Fund, the latter of which will fund student scholarships. Members of the community were invited to contribute to the endowments in honor of Richard Hays.