Wake Forest names Corey D.B. Walker Dean of the Divinity School

Portrait Corey D. B. Walker

Distinguished scholar of religion Corey D. B. Walker has been named Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, effective immediately. Walker, who is Wake Forest Professor of the Humanities, has served as interim dean for the school since January. 

“Corey Walker is a remarkable leader whose impressive record of scholarship and administrative leadership inform his compelling vision for graduate theological education,” said Wake Forest President Susan R. Wente. “Dr. Walker has served with distinction as interim dean, and I am confident he will effectively lead Wake Divinity in strengthening its impact and reach as a catalyst for good in society.” 

As interim dean, Walker has helped launch a number of initiatives, including the new Wake Div Experience, a signature program to holistically integrate the student experience from “the point of inquiry to the point of influence.” The distinctive approach involves special programming and extensive engagement with faculty, staff, alumni and community faith leaders. In 2024, the school plans to welcome its first class of doctoral students. 

“Wake Divinity is a distinctive community and a beacon for theological education,” Walker said. “The school combines a wealth of intellectual talent, institutional commitment and inspiration and passion to serve humanity. I am honored and excited to serve the Wake Divinity community as we create a new generation of theological leaders for faith communities and for our society and world.”

Walker is an ordained American Baptist clergyperson. He preaches and teaches in congregations and universities across the nation and has published broadly on African American religion and philosophy, African American history and culture, and religion and American public life. He is a 2023-2024 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar and the Frank M. Updike Memorial Scholar. He has also been instrumental in the University’s Strategic Framework process, serving as Vice-Chair for the Core Planning Team.

“Corey is an outstanding theological and academic leader who personifies the divinity school’s mission of justice, reconciliation, and compassion, and is also recognized as a community builder and collaborator,” said Provost Michele Gillespie, who chaired the search committee. “He has established rich partnerships with area churches and nonprofits, and across campus with the College, the School of Business, the School of Law, the School of Professional Studies, and the School of Medicine. These cross-school relationships and with areas like Wake the Arts and Campus Life have resulted in remarkable offerings that greatly enrich the intellectual life of our University.”  

The committee was unanimous in its support for Walker.

“Corey Walker is an accomplished teacher, scholar, and administrator who is committed to a broad vision of theological education that honors the humanity of all people and the well-being of the planet as a whole,” said search committee member Dr. Elizabeth Gandolfo, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Earley Associate Professor of Catholic and Latin American Studies. “As Wake Div celebrates its 25th year and launches into the future, his leadership will deepen our collective commitment to our mission of forming agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion. Dean Walker will help us to fulfill this mission by guiding our unique learning community into ever greater relationships of interdisciplinarity, collaboration, and solidarity within the divinity school itself, across the University, and in the wider community.”

Walker will continue to serve as director of Wake Forest’s African American Studies Program for the remainder of this academic year. He joined the Wake Forest faculty in 2020 and established the program, which welcomed three new faculty members this fall and continues to expand course offerings. More than 30 faculty from across the College of Arts and Sciences contribute to the program. The University offers a major and minor in African American Studies, and a graduate certificate is planned. Majors develop original research projects, and a capstone experience for seniors brings together students, scholars and community activists to synthesize and create new knowledge. In June, Wake Forest hosted its first Summer Institute dedicated to advancing environmental justice reporting in the southeast.  The institute is part of Wake Forest’s “Environmental and Epistemic Justice Initiative,” which Walker leads, and is supported by a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

Prior to arriving at Wake Forest, Walker held several faculty and academic leadership positions at several universities. At Virginia Union University, Walker served as vice president, dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, and professor of religion and society. Previously, he was the inaugural John W. and Anna Hodgin Hanes Professor of the Humanities and served as Dean of the College at Winston-Salem State University. Earlier in his career, he served as a faculty member in theology, ethics, and culture in the Department of Religious Studies and in African-American Studies in the Carter G. Woodson Institute of African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. He also held a faculty appointment at Brown University, where he served as chair of the Africana Studies department and has had visiting faculty appointments at Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena, Union Presbyterian Seminary, and University of Richmond.

Walker is the author of “A Noble Fight: African American Freemasonry and The Struggle for Democracy in America(University of Illinois Press) and is completing “Disciple of Nonviolence: Wyatt Tee Walker and the Struggle for Democracy in America” to be published by the University of Virginia Press. He is also the editor of “Community Wealth Building and the Reconstruction of American Democracy: Can We Make American Democracy Work?” (Edward Elgar Publishing), editor of “African Americans and Religious Freedom: New Perspectives for Congregations and Communities” (Freedom Forum), editor of “African American Religion” for Bloomsbury Religion in North America (Bloomsbury), editor of “To Stand With and For Humanity: Essays from the Wake Forest University Slavery, Race and Memory Project(Wake Forest University), editor of the special issue of the journal “Political Theology” on “Theology and Democratic Futures,” and associate editor of the award-winning “SAGE Encyclopedia of Identity”.

He has published more than 60 articles, essays, book chapters and reviews appearing in a wide range of scholarly journals and publications. He also co-directed and co-produced the documentary film “Fifeville” with acclaimed artist and filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson.

Walker was a consultant with the In Trust Center for Theological Schools. He served as founding president of the Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation and was Senior Fellow for Religious Freedom at the Freedom Forum Institute. He was also a member of the United States Institute of Peace U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy: Finding Common Ground to Advance Peace and Stability working group.

Walker is a graduate of Norfolk State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in finance. After a career in the financial services industry, he went on to earn his master of divinity degree from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology of Virginia Union University, master of theological studies degree from Harvard University, and doctor of philosophy degree in American studies from The College of William & Mary.

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