Prof. James T. Robinson has been appointed dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, President Paul Alivisatos and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee announced. The new term will begin Dec. 1, 2022.
Robinson, the Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Judaism, Islamic Studies and the History of Religions in the Divinity School and the College, has served as interim dean since July 2021. He has helped the Divinity School achieve notable successes in numerous areas, particularly in faculty and research growth and initiatives. These include hiring two new faculty scholars, expanding the school’s Teaching Fellows program for recent Ph.D. graduates, and piloting the first year of teaching the school’s new undergraduate Core sequence.
Under Robinson’s leadership, the Divinity School is currently searching for the newly created Tandean Rustandy Distinguished Service Professor in Global Christianities as well as faculty positions in race and religion, early modernities, rabbinic Judaism, and Japanese Buddhism. The school is further broadening and amplifying research and teaching in Jain studies and Islamic studies. Robinson also has been instrumental in operationalizing the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion, developing new programming and research projects.
“The Divinity School has a rich legacy as a global leader in religious studies,” Alivisatos said. “Jim is an exceptional scholar with deep experience in Jewish history, thought and literature. His progressive and collaborative leadership has already resulted in many impactful accomplishments. As dean, Jim is well positioned to lead the Divinity School through the constantly evolving field of theological research and education.”
Robinson conducts research focused on medieval Jewish intellectual history, philosophy and biblical exegesis in the Islamic world and Christian Europe. Since joining the University in 2003, he has taught more than 25 courses in the field of medieval Judaism and was recognized with the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring in 2017. Robinson is the author of four books, three edited volumes and more than 40 articles and chapters and has been co-editor of The Journal of Religion since 2013.
In addition to his faculty roles in the Divinity School and the College, Robinson holds appointments in the Program in Medieval Studies, Religious Studies, Fundamentals: Issues and Texts, and the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies. He is also an affiliated member of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Robinson earned his M.Phil in Oriental studies (modern Jewish studies) from Oxford University, his master’s degree and Ph.D. in near eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard University, and his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley.
“It is an honor to continue my leadership of the Divinity School during this exciting time—a time of transition and generational change as we build on traditional strengths and extend into new areas,” Robinson said. “We aim to continue growing the faculty, strengthening our undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and expanding the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion, experimenting with new ways to reach communities around campus and beyond. The old saying ‘from strength to strength’ seems especially apt at this moment of opportunity.”
The appointment of Robinson was informed by the recommendations of the Deanship Advisory Committee elected by Divinity School faculty.