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Letter from EDS Board of Trustees on the transition of The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale

Letter from EDS Board of Trustees on the transition of The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale

Letter from Episcopal Divinity School:

The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale has served this community as President and Dean, of the Episcopal Divinity School for over five years. She has informed us that she will not be seeking a renewal of her contract and she wishes to explore new challenges and step down as President and Dean.

We accept her decision with gratitude for her service and for what she has accomplished during her tenure. Since her appointment over five years ago, President Ragsdale has served EDS with vigor and a commitment to excellence. President Ragsdale undertook a deep and real challenge when she began her tenure at the helm of EDS, including arriving at a difficult time in the wake of the sale of iconic property to secure the institution’s financial future, and during a time of challenge in the broader field of theological education. She steered the development of a strategic plan that now guides us, managed complex new relationships with our campus partner Lesley University, updated our technology infrastructure, our physical plant, attracted key talent to our staff and faculty and broadened our financial base of support from both grants and private donors. She charted a course toward long-term sustainability and academic excellence.

In the midst of broader questions about the future of theological education, our community has faced challenges in recent years. Yet even in the darkness of challenges to the field of theological education, we can see the light of God’s grace shine through our work. Just this year, not only did we welcome our largest-ever class of Distributive Learning students, but also our faculty and students continued to be recognized for their prestigious work and major funders continue to invest in our vision. Due in part to President Ragsdale’s leadership, we have much to be proud of at EDS. We are leaders in educational programs that are enlivened by theologies of liberation, especially the many voices of feminist, congregational, ecumenical, and global studies.

President Ragsdale has honored our tradition of being a respected and progressive center for study and spiritual formation for lay and ordained leaders and, as she leaves our institution, we have hope for the future as our students, staff, faculty and alumni serve and advance God’s mission of justice, compassion, and reconciliation.

As President Ragsdale prepares to take a long-delayed sabbatical to focus on her visionary work regarding the future of theological education, EDS faces a time of transition. President Ragsdale has generously offered her assistance to ensure a smooth transition and has asked us to expedite the change of leadership. We will provide more information separately regarding interim leadership and governance. For now we want to express our thanks to President Ragsdale. With this leadership transition, we ask all members of our community to offer their gracious prayers to our departing President and to contribute to a welcoming and prayerful community for our next leaders. Walking in love and guided by justice, we are confident that our community will together help the Board and new leadership in its efforts to chart a sound and ambitious forward course.

The Board thanks all members of the community for their contributions to EDS, and we look forward to working together to secure a glorious future for our beloved institution.


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Ann Fontaine

Letter from Dean Ragsdale:

Dear Friends:

I write to tell you that I have informed EDS’s board of trustees of my intent not to request a renewal of my contract when it expires at the end of June 2015. Further, I have asked them, if possible, to expedite the process of naming a successor so that I may explore new opportunities. Of course I will do everything I can to insure a smooth transition.

I am very proud of our accomplishments over the last 5 years: major renovations to our physical plant and technology systems; increased giving from alumni and friends as well as new foundation grants; improvements in our distributive learning program to improve the experience for both faculty and students; transformative work within the Boston Theological Institute; the creation of the Mission Institute; and the preliminary stages of a capital campaign; and new partnerships with Bloy House and Chung Chi College in Hong Kong as well as preliminary conversations regarding cross registration for on-line and on-site courses, course sharing, and resource sharing possibilities among Episcopal seminaries, progressive theological schools, and diocesan schools, as well as small colleges and major universities (to insure a future for EDS, and theological education, that is both sustainable and relevant).

None of this would have been possible without an extraordinary staff and I wish to express my gratitude for their good work. And, of course, all of this work is important only in that it supports the teaching and learning for which EDS exists. In addition to designing and teaching what often prove to be life-changing courses, our faculty have helped put together several powerful conferences and lecture series. The School has been blessed by the extraordinary talent we have been able to draw from around the world for these events as well as by the alums who have gone from EDS into transformative ministries in the church and the world.

EDS has a long and distinguished history. I have every reason to believe that it will continue on what has become its traditional, and signature, path and I look forward to seeing what comes next for it.

Thank you all for your support for the School and for me, personally, over the last five and a half years. You will remain in my prayers.

The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale
President and Dean
Episcopal Divinity School

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