Finance:Hollis Chair of Divinity

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The Hollis Chair of Divinity is an endowed chair at Harvard Divinity School. It was established in 1721 by Thomas Hollis, a wealthy English merchant and benefactor of the university, at a salary of £80 per year.[1] It is the oldest endowed chair in the United States, the first professorship in theology in the country,[2] and in the early 19th century it was considered to be "the most prestigious endowed professorship in America".[3]

History, denominational issues

The terms for the new position were drawn up in London on 22 August 1721.[4] Requirements for the professor were not very sectarian, although Hollis made a requirement of character: "That he should be a man of solid learning in divinity, of sound, or orthodox principles, one well gifted to teach, of a sober and pious life, and of a grave conversation."[5] Traditionally, the chair's occupant has the right to graze a cow on the Harvard Yard, but until 2009 none but the first two Hollis professors had done so;[6] in 2009, upon his retirement, theologian Harvey Cox restored the tradition and chose Faith, a Jersey cow[7] belonging to the Farm School[8] in Athol, Massachusetts.[9][10]

Although Hollis was a Baptist, he had enough faith in the liberal and tolerant atmosphere at Harvard to endow the chair and allow the president and faculty of the university to appoint theologians to the chair, with the condition "that none be refused on account of his belief and practice of adult baptism." Hollis's "sound and orthodox principles" initially meant Congregationalist or Calvinist. The chair's first occupant, Edward Wigglesworth (1732–1794), had to swear allegiance to the Medulla Theologiae, a Calvinist theological manual by William Ames.[11][12]

The chair was first unoccupied, briefly, from 1803 to 1805, when the Puritans at Harvard ceded power to the Unitarians; in 1805, Unitarian Henry Ware assumed the post.[13] Proponents of the Unitarian faction pointed out that it would be impossible to find a man orthodox enough for the 1720s in the early nineteenth century; "orthodox" they interpreted as following "the general sentiment of the country."[14] In the 1830s, Harvard found itself in financial trouble and at the same time was moving away from the teaching of religion. Josiah Quincy III, then-president of Harvard, refused to nominate a successor for Henry Ware, and the post was left unoccupied a second time.[15] It also seems that the original endowment had dried up.[14] In the meantime, to lessen the possible charge of a "narrowly sectarian education" the chair was moved to the Divinity School,[15] which had been formed in 1816.

Chairholders and denomination

  • Edward Wigglesworth (1722–1765);[11] Calvinist Congregationalist[14]
  • Edward Wigglesworth (son of the previous occupant; 1765–1792);[12][16] Calvinist Congregationalist[14]
  • David Tappan (1792–1803);[3] Calvinist Congregationalist[14]
  • Henry Ware (1805[13]–1840[17]); Unitarian Congregationalist[14]
  • David Gordon Lyon (1882[18]–1910[19]); Baptist[14]
  • James Hardy Ropes (1910[20]–1933); Trinitarian Congregationalist[14]
  • Henry Cadbury (1934–1954);[21] Quaker[14]
  • Amos Niven Wilder (1956-1963);[22] Congregationalist[23]
  • George Huntston Williams (1963-1980);Unitarian[24]
  • Harvey Cox (198?–2009);[25] Baptist[26]
  • Karen Leigh King (2009– )[27] Episcopalian


  1. Wood, Nathan Eusebius (1899). The history of the First Baptist Church of Boston (1665–1899). American Baptist Publication Society. p. 173. 
  2. Van Doren, Charles Lincoln (1971). Webster's guide to American history: a chronological, geographical, and biographical survey and compendium. Merriam-Webster. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-87779-081-5. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dorrien, Gary J. (2001). The making of American liberal theology: imagining progressive religion, 1805–1900. Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 4. ISBN 978-0-664-22354-0. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  4. Quincy, Josiah (1840). The history of Harvard university, Volume 1. pp. 534–37. 
  5. Bradford, Alden (May 1837). "Historical Sketch of Harvard University". The Quarterly Register 9: 321–66. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  6. Babich, Gila (11 September 2009). "Cow grazes in Harvard Yard as professor retires". Cambridge Chronicle. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  7. Walsh, Colleen (3 September 2009). "Around the Schools: Harvard Divinity School". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  8. "The Farm School: A family farm for the coming generations with school and summer programs". The Farm School. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  9. "Renowned Harvard Professor Claims Privilege of Grazing Cow In Harvard Yard". Harvard University. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  10. Ellis, Sam (30 August 2009). "Holy cow! Bovine to visit Harvard Yard". The Boston Globe. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Hoeveler, J. David (2007). Creating the American Mind: Intellect and Politics in the Colonial Colleges. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-7425-4839-8. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 m'Clure, Alexander Wilson (1847). "President Quincy's Statements Exposed and Corrected". The Christian Observatory 1: 500–507. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Smith, Richard Norton (1998). The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation. Harvard UP. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-674-37295-5. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 Morison, Samuel Eliot (1986). Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636–1936. Harvard UP. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-674-88891-3. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Shoemaker, Stephen (2008). "The emerging distinction between theology and religion at nineteenth-century Harvard University". Harvard Theological Review 101 (3–4): 417–30. doi:10.1017/S0017816008001934. 
  16. The National cyclopaedia of American biography, Volume 9. J.T. White. 1899. pp. 237–38. 
  17. Herzog, Johann Jakob (1929). Albert Hauck. ed. The new Schaff-Herzog encyclopedia of religious knowledge: embracing Biblical, historical, doctrinal, and practical theology and Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical biography from the earliest times to the present day, Volume 12. Funk and Wagnalls Company. p. 272. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  18. "The History of the Divinity School". Harvard Alumni Bulletin: pp. 114–18. 1916. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  19. "Prof. Lyon to retire: He becomes professor emeritus after 40 years' service at Harvard". The New York Times. 26 November 1921. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  20. Quinquennial catalogue of the officers and graduate. Harvard University. 1920. pp. 22. 
  21. McKim, Donald K (2007). Dictionary of major biblical interpreters. InterVarsity Press. pp. 272. ISBN 978-0-8308-2927-9. 
  22. "Amos N. Wilder, a Bible Scholar, Literary Critic and Educator, 97". New York Times. 4 May 1993. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  23. "Wilder, Amos Niven. Papers, 1923-1982". Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  24. Petersen, Rodney L. (2000). "In Memoriam: George Huntston Williams, Harvard Divinity School Hollis Professor of Divinity, Emeritus, Dies at 86". The Sixteenth Century Journal 31 (4): 1081–1082. 
  25. "Cow in the Yard". Harvard Magazine. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  26. "Theology: Life in a Defatalized World". Time (magazine). 2 April 1965.,9171,941039,00.html?iid=chix-sphere. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  27. "King, Madigan Receive New Faculty Posts at HDS". Harvard Divinity School. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 

External links