Celebrating a Historic Achievement: Marla Frederick Returns to Harvard as First Woman to Lead Divinity School

African American Trailblazer and Trendsetter

In a momentous announcement, Harvard University President Claudine Gay proudly revealed that African American religion scholar Marla F. Frederick will be returning to Harvard as the next dean of the Harvard Divinity School. This appointment marks a significant milestone as Frederick becomes the first woman to hold this esteemed position in the school’s 207-year history.

Frederick, a distinguished professor of religion and culture at Emory University, has an impressive academic background. Her journey at Harvard began in 2003, where she later received tenure in 2010. After 16 years at Harvard, she departed for Emory University’s School of Theology in 2019. Her return to Harvard as the dean of the Divinity School is met with enthusiasm and anticipation.

Scheduled to commence her new role on January 1, 2024, Frederick will bring with her a wealth of experience and expertise in the field. During her time at Harvard, she not only held teaching positions but also served as interim chair of Harvard’s Committee on the Study of Religion and played pivotal roles in the Department of African American Studies.

In a statement, President Claudine Gay expressed her excitement about Marla Frederick’s return, highlighting her leadership qualities, academic stature, and collaborative mindset. Gay’s confidence in Frederick’s abilities sets a positive tone for her upcoming tenure.

In an interview with the Harvard Gazette, Frederick expressed her honor at being appointed as the HDS dean. She praised the institution’s commitment to justice and human flourishing through deep study. Frederick’s dedication to developing religious and civic leaders aligns with Harvard’s mission to contribute to society’s complexity and diversity.

Provost Alan M. Garber, who co-led the dean search with President Gay, emphasized that Frederick’s understanding of the Divinity School’s unique role positions her as the ideal candidate to lead in the years ahead. Her comprehensive perspective, garnered from service both within and outside of Harvard, promises a fresh approach to the challenges and opportunities facing the school.

Frederick’s return to Harvard is not just a homecoming; it’s a landmark occasion that reflects the institution’s commitment to diversity, excellence, and progress. Her journey as a respected scholar, educator, and leader is set to leave an indelible mark on Harvard’s rich legacy. As she takes on this new role, the academic community eagerly awaits the transformative contributions she will undoubtedly make.