Richard Hays, one of the longest-serving and best-known scholars at Duke Divinity School, will become the school’s dean effective July 1.
Hays, 62, is the George Washington Ivey professor of New Testament and has agreed to lead the school for two years, the remainder of Jones’ term, while a national search is conducted for a successor.
Duke University President Richard Brodhead said that he and other university leaders quickly concluded that Hays would be an ideal candidate to keep the Divinity School on course.
“Richard is a person of great accomplishments and splendid qualities,” says Brodhead. “I’m confident that he will be a great leader.”
Hays met with faculty and staff shortly after the announcement and said that his priority would be maintaining the school’s direction, much of which is spelled out in a recently revised strategic plan. That plan, approved last fall, includes proposals for three new degree programs—two master’s degrees and a doctor of ministry degree.
“My task in my short, two-year stint as dean is to water what Greg has planted,” Hays says. “It’s God who gives the growth. It’s finally the Lord’s work that we are doing here.”
Hays came to Duke in 1991 from the faculty of Yale Divinity School. His book The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation was selected by Christianity Today as one of the 100 most important religious books of the 20th century. His most recent books include The Art of Reading Scripture (2003, coedited with Ellen Davis), The Conversion of the Imagination (2005), and Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage (2008, coedited with Beverly Roberts Gaventa).
Hays earned his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School and his Ph.D. at Emory University. He is an ordained United Methodist minister who has preached in settings ranging from rural Oklahoma churches to London’s Westminster Abbey.
A longtime friend and mentor to Jones, Hays says that the school owes the dean an enormous debt of gratitude for his leadership over the past 13 years. “It is a remarkable place because of the vision Greg and Susan [Pendleton Jones] have brought here. Nearly every other [seminary] in the country looks to us to provide an example of what theological education done right can look like.”
Like Jones, Hays is an enthusiastic sports fan. His particular favorites include Duke basketball, the Atlanta Braves, and the Boston Red Sox. He and his wife, Judy, also enjoy hiking, and Hays spends much of his spare time playing his Martin D-28 guitar. He and fellow professors Joel Marcus and Thea Portier-Young pack the house at the Divinity School’s monthly lunchtime talent shows during their occasional performances as “Peter, Paul, and Mary.”
The Hayses have two grown children: Chris, who teaches Old Testament and ancient Near Eastern studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and Sarah, a singer-songwriter and personal trainer in Nashville, Tenn.