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Candler School of Theology Dean Jan Love to step down in 2024, return to faculty
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Elaine Justice
outdoor headshot of Jan Love, dean of Candler School of Theology at Emory University

Jan Love will conclude her term as dean next summer following 17 years in leadership at Emory, including nearly two years as the university’s interim provost. She will remain on the faculty as a professor of Christianity and world politics.

— Emory Photo/Video

Jan Love, the Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean of Candler School of Theology, will step down as dean in summer 2024, when her current term ends. After 17 years of service in leadership at Candler and Emory, including nearly two years as interim provost, she will remain on the Emory faculty as a professor of Christianity and world politics and plans to take a sabbatical during the 2024-25 academic year before retiring in summer 2025.

“Dean Jan Love has been a transformative leader at Emory University,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “Since 2007, she has ambitiously elevated Candler School of Theology, creating life-changing opportunities for students to deepen their spiritual understanding while preparing to serve society as leaders in the church and beyond. When I arrived at Emory, Dean Love had stepped up to serve as interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs during a period marked by leadership transitions and the COVID-19 pandemic. Through it all, she provided steady, selfless and heartfelt leadership that helped our university emerge stronger than ever before. I am grateful for all she has done for Emory.”

“Dean Love is an incredible leader and innovator,” says Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Under her guidance, Candler has seen strong faculty recruitment, new endowed scholarships and significant endowment growth. She has also been an exceptionally entrepreneurial dean, launching new academic and online programs to make a Candler education accessible to a wide range of learners. I have personally benefited from her wisdom as provost, and am deeply grateful for her strong sense of service and dedication to Emory.”

Love joined Candler School of Theology as its first female dean in January 2007. She notes that she was at the time an “unusual choice” as she is neither an ordained minister nor a scholar of theology. Instead, she is an internationally recognized leader in church and ecumenical arenas and a scholar of world politics who focuses on the intersection of religion and politics, conflict transformation and globalization.

Emory selected Love on the basis of her decades-long professorship at University of South Carolina, extensive lay leadership within The United Methodist Church (UMC) — including service as chief executive officer of United Methodist Women, now known as United Women in Faith — and capacity to position Candler as a leader in theological education.

Since becoming dean, Love has stewarded Candler’s relationship with the UMC and deepened the school’s commitment to worship life and formation while also serving as a leader in organizations devoted to theological education. She has also overseen the expansion of Candler’s curriculum, physical facilities (including a 128,600-square foot complex completed in 2014) and accessible theological education.

Under Love’s leadership, Candler has expanded academically to offer three new degrees, five dual-degree programs, and more online and hybrid options, including a hybrid Master of Divinity degree that launches this fall. Candler also has created more opportunities for experiential learning and international engagement during Love’s tenure.

In 2019, Love led the launch of The Candler Foundry, an innovative take on the concept of lifelong learning that makes theological education accessible to learners regardless of degree status or profession. Through online and in-person courses, public events featuring TED-style talks, certificate programs and partnerships with churches, The Candler Foundry has served more than 100,000 learners since its inception.

Love also increased the diversity of Candler’s faculty and student body, expanding representation from historically underrepresented groups among both tenure-stream faculty and students. Continuing the school’s tradition of world-class scholarship, she hired 33 out of the 44 current full-time faculty, increased the number of endowed professorships by 44% and added an endowed deanship.

Beyond her work within Candler, Love is an outstanding institutional citizen known for stepping up to lead. She served as Emory’s interim provost from December 2019 to July 2021, a period marked by Emory’s COVID-19 response and recovery, the retirement of Claire E. Sterk from her role as university president and the arrival of current president Gregory L. Fenves. Love also facilitated the onboarding of Bellamkonda in 2021 and chaired the search for the new dean of Oxford College in the 2022-23 academic year.

“Leading Candler for the last 17 years has been one of the great joys of my life, a source of deep satisfaction and a steady stream of gratifying challenges,” says Love. “The faculty, staff, students, alumni, retirees and friends of Candler make this community an exceptional place to work, learn, grow, worship and belong, creating an environment where I could thrive personally and professionally. I am grateful.”

A national search for Love’s successor will be announced by Bellamkonda this fall, following the selection of a search firm and appointment of a search advisory committee.

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