Marla F. Frederick, a professor of religion and culture at Emory University, will serve as the next dean of the Harvard Divinity School, becoming the first woman to lead the school in its 207-year history, University President Claudine Gay announced Thursday afternoon.
Frederick — who previously spent 16 years as a professor in Harvard’s African and African American Studies Department before departing for Emory — will begin her tenure on Jan. 1, 2024.
David F. Holland, a professor of New England church history, will serve as interim dean from Sept. 1 until Dec. 31.
The University announced in May that outgoing Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton would extend his tenure through the end of August as the search for his successor continued. Hempton, who first became dean in 2012, initially announced in October that he would step down from the post at the end of the 2022-23 academic year.
Gay wrote in an email to Divinity School affiliates that she is “thrilled to welcome Marla back to Harvard.”
“I am confident that Marla’s leadership qualities, her academic stature, her wide-ranging curiosity, her collaborative mindset, and her thoughtful and caring approach to all she does will combine to make her an excellent new dean,” Gay added.
Frederick first joined Harvard’s faculty in 2003, before receiving tenure in 2010. She left Harvard in 2019 to join the faculty of Emory University’s School of Theology, a departure that came at a time when many Black faculty members opted to exit Harvard for peer institutions.
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