William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago, was also a distinguished Semiticist and a member of the Baptist clergy. He believed that a great research university ought to have as one of its central occupations the scholarly study of religion. These commitments led him to bring the Morgan Park Seminary of the Baptist Theological Union to Hyde Park, making the Divinity School the first professional school at the University of Chicago.
The Divinity School has pursued Harper’s vision of an institution devoted to systematic inquiry into the manifold dimensions of religion, seeking to serve both those preparing for careers in teaching and research and those preparing for careers in ministry. The School has served for decades as the largest single educator of faculty members for theological seminaries, departments of theology, and programs in religious studies across the spectrum of institutions that comprise American higher education. At the same time, the School is privileged to number among its alumni a long and distinguished list of religious leaders.
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