Virginia BurrusDear GDR Graduates, Students, Faculty, and Friends,

A year ago in our summer newsletter, I wrote of transitions, and now, somewhat to my own surprise, I find myself turning to the same topic again.

Of course, transitions are part of the rhythm of the academic year, and from that perspective it is no surprise that we celebrate a wonderful graduating class yet again, along with annually awarded honors and prizes.  But we must also mark other departures from our community, while celebrating what their lives and work have meant to us.  Most of all, we mark the death and honor the life and work of our most beloved colleague Otto Maduro, who passed away on May 9th of this year, at the still-youthful age of 68, having served on Drew’s faculty for twenty-one years.  It was the enormous good fortune of our community to be able to enjoy with Otto and his family, in Drew’s Craig Chapel on May 3rd, a “celebration of life,” as he put it—of his life, and also of the great gift of life itself, which Otto embodied so wonderfully.

We also face changes in leadership.  This summer Theological School Dean Jeffrey Kuan leaves Drew to become President of Claremont School of Theology.  We celebrate this opportunity for Dean Kuan and look forward to increased opportunities for partnership with our West Coast United Methodist sister school as a result!  We celebrate too all that Dean Kuan accomplished in his two and a half years at Drew, including the strengthening of the GDR—always a high priority for him—not least with the initiation of full-tuition scholarships for all GDR students and the particular support of international students.  The Theological School will be under Virginia Samuel’s able leadership during an interim year while a search for a new dean takes place.

At the same time, the chairing of the GDR will pass from myself to Stephen Moore, as I too move on to a different job—something else I could not have anticipated a year ago.  After an incredibly happy and satisfying twenty-two years at Drew, I will be leaving to join Syracuse University as the Bishop W. Earl Ledden Professor of Religion.  I shall miss Drew intensely and often, as is already clear.  But I am comforted by the fact that Bishop W. Earl Ledden, as Terry Todd tells me, was not only a United Methodist but both a Drew alum and a Drew trustee!  Moreover, the first person to hold the Bishop Ledden chair (from 1968-75) was Stanley Hopper, who came directly from Drew, where he had been the Dean of the Graduate School.  And when Hopper went to Syracuse, he joined two Drew PhD graduates (both class of 1963)—David Miller and James Wiggins, who were integral to the Syracuse religion graduate program for many years.  In other words, Syracuse’s Department of Religion has deep connections with Drew, and I am very pleased to be part of the historic continuity between these two institutions.  I am also particularly pleased to succeed Patricia Cox Miller in this chair; she herself succeeded Hopper.  Pat has been one of my guiding lights as a scholar, and any of you who are my students have surely read her works.

But departures are only a small part of the story, even if they have loomed large in this letter!   Looking to the future, I am so very glad to announce that two colleagues have been tenured and promoted to Associate Professor—Hyo-Dong Lee and Kenneth Ngwa.  Hurray for them, and for Drew!

As well, there have been so many exciting things taking place in the months since our last newsletter in March.  Here we have chronicled just a few—an Eco-Justice tour of Newark and an exciting doctoral seminar in Africana Studies, for example.

We are also privileged to publish here a fascinating memoir by renowned Professor Emeritus of Ethics Ed Long, who several years ago generously established the Peace Studies Fellowship [link to piece by Traci].

Let me say finally what a great joy it has been to serve Drew’s Graduate Division of Religion (in its various institutional manifestations) for so many years.  I do not consider myself to be cutting ties so much as shifting my address….  In the meantime, do send us (by which I mean, Stephen Moore) all your news and remember to check our facebook page regularly [link]!

All best wishes,

Virginia Burrus

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