Wake Forest University has hired the first three faculty members of its new divinity school, scheduled to open in fall 1999.
Bill J. Leonard, the school’s dean, said that the professors are renowned Hebrew scholar Phyllis Trible, Baptist theologian Frank Tupper and church history and spirituality expert Father Samuel Weber, a Roman Catholic priest and Benedictine monk.
Trible will be associate dean and professor of Biblical studies; Tupper, who is currently a visiting professor in Wake Forest’s religion department, will be professor of theology; Weber will be associate professor of early Christianity and spiritual formation.
“This diverse group of individuals brings years of teaching experience and expertise to a community of scholars, ministers and friends that will begin here when the divinity school opens in fall 1999,” Leonard said. “We believe that they will help us shape a school that will be Christian by tradition, ecumenical in outlook and Baptist in heritage.
“With their coming, we hope our friends will say of the Wake Forest University Divinity School, ‘it was worth the wait.'”
Wake Forest’s board of trustees approved the hiring of Trible, Tupper and Weber at its April 2-3 meeting. Trible will join the divinity school’s faculty in July.
In addition to teaching, she will design the school’s curriculum based on a model created by Walter Harrelson, former dean of the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University divinity schools.
Trible began her career at Wake Forest, where she taught from 1963-71. Last May, she received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from the university during commencement ceremonies.
She graduated magna cum laude from Meredith College in 1954, earned her master’s degree in divinity from Union Theological Seminary in 1956 and her doctorate from Union and Columbia University in 1963. Internationally known as a Hebrew scholar and rhetorical critic, Trible provided expert commentary for Bill Moyers’ public television series, “Genesis: A Living Conversation.”
The Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature at Union Theological Seminary since 1981, Trible is considered a leading pioneer in the text-based exploration of women and gender in scripture. She is the author of the books, “God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality,” “Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives” and “Rhetorical Criticism: Context, Method, and the Book of Jonah.”
Tupper joined Wake Forest in 1997 as a visiting professor of religion in the religion department. He had taught for 25 years at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
A Baptist minister who earned his master of divinity degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1965 and his doctorate at Southern in Louisville in 1971, Tupper is a well-known Baptist theologian, lecturer and author. His books include “The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg” and “A Scandalous Providence: The Jesus Story of the Compassion of God.”
Tupper’s ministerial experience includes seven years as pastor at Edmonton Baptist Church in Edmonton, Ky., from 1966 to 1973, and interim pastorates in Baptist churches from 1973 to the present.
Weber will join the divinity school’s faculty in July 1999. He has taught early and medieval church history, liturgy, spirituality and other courses at the St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind., since 1976. He also serves on the faculty of St. Meinrad College.
A 1970 graduate of St. Meinrad, Weber received his licentiate in sacred theology from The Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome, Italy, in 1975. He earned his master of divinity degree in 1990 from the St. Meinrad School of Theology and his master of arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1991.
In addition to his academic experience, Weber is the organist at St. Meinrad Archabbey. He studied at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago from 1964-66. A frequent contributor to “The Upper Room Worship Book,” the “Hymnal for the Hours” and “A Psalm Sampler,” Weber has taught courses as a visiting lecturer at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Louisville, Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and other institutions.
According to Leonard, Wake Forest’s new divinity school will train students from a variety of denominational backgrounds using a curriculum that blends instruction in traditional seminary subjects with courses taught by faculty of the university’s undergraduate, graduate and professional schools. The school will offer the master of divinity degree.
Earlier this year, the Henry R. Luce Foundation Inc. of New York awarded the school $150,000 to develop the multidisciplinary courses.
Leonard expects the divinity school to open with five faculty and 35 students, building to 135 to 150 students within three years. To date, Wake Forest has raised more than $10 million in contributions or pledges toward a $15 million goal and completed the first phase of renovations in Wingate Hall — the school’s site. That work will be completed later this year.
Wake Forest’s divinity school is the first university-based seminary in the United States to start without a formal denominational affiliation.