Margaret M. Mitchell appointed next dean of University of Chicago Divinity School
Professor Margaret M. Mitchell has been appointed the next dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, University President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum announced. Mitchell's appointment takes effect July 1.
Mitchell, an alumna of the Divinity School, joined the faculty in 1998. Her scholarship has covered a wide range of topics in the New Testament and early Christian literature, including the cultural context and religious legacy of those early texts.
"The University of Chicago Divinity School occupies a special place among its peers as a preeminent and unique place for the rigorous study of religion, past and present," Zimmer and Rosenbaum wrote in a joint e-mail to Divinity School faculty and staff. "Professor Mitchell's international scholarly profile, dedication to teaching and record of University-wide service make her a perfect choice to carry the Divinity School's hallmark tradition forward."
Mitchell is the author of four books, including Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation and the forthcoming Paul, the Corinthians, and the Birth Christian Hermeneutics, based on her 2008 Speaker's Lectures in Biblical Interpretation at Oxford University. She is also co-editor of The Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume 1. Some of her most recent work involved the exhaustive examination of the Archaic Mark, a 44-page codex once believed to date to the 14th century. Working with experts in chemical analysis and medieval bookmaking, Mitchell's team definitively proved the work to be a forgery.
Before coming to the University of Chicago, Mitchell taught at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. She received her bachelor's degree in 1978 from Manhattanville College before studying at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she received her A.M. in 1982 and her Ph.D. in 1989. Among her institutional activities, Mitchell has served since 2008 on the University of Chicago Women's Leadership Council.
"What makes the Divinity School unique is the wide range of traditions, methodologies, dispositions and commitments that all come together here in a spirit of reasoned, critical debate," Mitchell said. "We believe serious inquiry into the subject of religion requires a university context where all ideas are subject to rigorous standards of evidence. The Divinity School is a tough-minded, sprawling, lively, engaging and ongoing conversation about what religion is and why understanding it is so vitally important."
An advisory committee elected by faculty of the Divinity School recommended Mitchell to Zimmer and Rosenbaum. W. Clark Gilpin, the Margaret E. Burton Distinguished Service Professor and a former Divinity School dean, chaired the five-member committee. The group interviewed faculty members and staff to hear their views on the school's direction and their suggestions for potential candidates.
"The faculty committee that advised President Zimmer on the deanship has great confidence in Professor Mitchell's ability to be the school's ambassador to the University, to the academy and to the school's public constituencies," Gilpin said. "Professor Mitchell has established an international reputation for outstanding scholarship and understands the academic study of religion in its wider humanistic context. She is well-informed about the full range of scholarly questions pursued in the Divinity School, and she is passionate about the school's distinctive character."
In their e-mail, Zimmer and Rosenbaum praised Richard Rosengarten, who has served as dean since 2000.
"Under his leadership, the Divinity School launched the Chicago Forum on Pedagogy and the Study of Religion, established a program in the study of Islam, made 15 faculty appointments and oversaw the folding of the Divinity School into the University's graduate aid initiative. Rosengarten has become a national voice on the academic study of religion, and on religious pluralism in Chicago," they wrote.
The Divinity School was founded in 1892, and was the first of the University of Chicago's six professional schools. The school is known for its cross-disciplinary research; many of its 38 faculty members hold joint appointments in other departments or schools. More than 300 students are enrolled at the Divinity School, pursuing A.M., Ph.D., or M.Div degrees.
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