Dear Candler community,
My heart is full of mixed emotions as I write with the news that the 2023-2024 academic year will be my last as dean of Candler School of Theology. I will be on sabbatical for the 2024-2025 academic year and plan to retire in late summer 2025. I turn 71 soon, and I look forward to a new season in life when I can spend more time with family and friends, undertake some writing projects, engage in a range of fun activities for which I have little time now, and more.
Leading this school for the last 17 years has been one of the great joys of my life, a source of deep satisfaction, and a steady stream of gratifying challenges that we have productively tackled together. Throughout the past decade and a half, I have been blessed by your support as I endeavored to exercise a faithful ministry of administration, and together, with God’s help, we have accomplished much toward our mission of educating faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries throughout the world.
I give thanks to God for each of you—the faculty, staff, students, alumni, retirees, and friends of Candler. You make this community an exceptional place to work, learn, grow, worship, and belong. Your daily witness to God’s steadfast love and grace inspires me and has created an environment where I could thrive personally and professionally. I am grateful.
But this is not goodbye! We have an entire year of good work ahead of us. I look forward to our normal rhythms of educational engagement, good governance in important decisions that lie ahead this year, and vibrant community life.
In due course, Emory Provost Ravi Bellamkonda will communicate with you about the search process for calling a new dean to Candler. As some of you will recall, I chaired the search committee for the dean of Emory’s Oxford College last year. In that experience, I learned that Provost Bellamkonda cares deeply about the active participation of faculty, staff, students, and other key stakeholders in the process. I am confident that Candler’s values and voices will play central roles in shaping the search and selection of the school’s next dean.
Thank you for all that you are and all that you do to make Candler the remarkable place it is. As you know, Paul ritually writes about his thanksgiving to God for the people receiving his letters, as he does in the first chapter of Philippians, “I thank my God for every remembrance of you, always in every one of my prayers for all of you, praying with joy for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” This is my heartfelt prayer, too, as we undertake the work of this academic year and move through the search process.
Grace and peace,
Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean
Professor of Christianity and World Politics
Candler School of Theology | Emory University
Read the full story at the Emory News Center.