May 25, 1995
Vol. 14, No. 18

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    Bernard Brown retiring as Dean of Rockefeller Chapel

    After serving as Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel for 16 years, the Rev. Bernard Brown (A.M.'65, Ph.D.'73) has announced that he will retire as Dean at the end of the academic year.

    "Rockefeller Chapel's range of strengths under Bernie Brown's leadership -- the chapel restoration, its music program, the University's Oxfam chapter founded by his wife Carol Jean, and Bernie's always-thoughtful preaching and teaching -- are well known, widely appreciated and will be greatly missed," said Provost Geoffrey Stone. "Bernie has been an exemplary citizen of the University, and we wish him well in his retirement."

    The Browns will remain in Hyde Park, where they are longtime residents and have raised their six children. Brown will continue to teach a course in the Humanities Core and in the Fundamentals program of the College and has plans to continue a writing project on liturgy and music.

    "I'm looking forward to taking advantage of all the things on campus that I haven't had time to enjoy -- like going to some of the wonderful lectures listed in the Chronicle, or finally buying a season pass to Doc Films," he said. "Most important to me is the fact that I will continue to be a part of the University of Chicago."

    Brown, who is also Associate Professor in the Divinity School, has served as Dean of Rockefeller Chapel since 1979. He previously had been Associate Dean since 1967. During his tenure as Dean, Brown has been responsible for numerous projects and improvements in the building, including a new acoustical environment more favorable to musical performances. But Brown feels that his main contribution has been to the people who make up the Rockefeller Chapel community.

    "Things have changed since I first came to campus, when the Rockefeller community was a pretty loose situation," he said. "While the chapel will always be a fluid, transitory place, there has been a more continuous core of people associated with the chapel for a number of years. For me, this is the meaning of the chapel -- it is a place not only with a firm core but also with the ability to reach out to the wider, ever-changing population of the University. I feel proud to have helped the chapel community live out this meaning through its numerous activities and events."

    "I have always been a fan of Bernard Brown, and I feel that he has done with the chapel exactly what needed to be done," said Charles Gray, Professor in History. "A whole new kind of institution has sprung up under his direction, and he has made an impact in two important areas. First is the way he organized a true community at the chapel, whereas before he came people merely went to services. It is a loose organization, as befits life at this university, but it is one that provides an important communal experience.

    "Second is the way he gave the chapel services a whole new form -- in my opinion this is the most important thing he has done. The services now are truly ecumenical."

    "Bernie Brown has always been an extraordinarily sensitive and responsive pastor to both faculty and students and their families, of all denominations," said Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Professor in the Divinity School. "He has been an important personal and humane presence for members of the University community at all times, though especially in times of crisis, and an uplifting and inspiring presence on the great occasions of celebration in the chapel -- convocation, Christmas and many others.

    "He has also given us wonderful programs of music in the chapel and has nourished us all with his friendship and good fellowship," she added. "This will be a very hard act to follow, and we are fortunate that he will remain among us even after he retires as the Dean of Rockefeller Chapel."

    Brown first came to Chicago to study at what was then called the Federated Theological Schools of the University of Chicago, and he received his B.D. in 1955. He was ordained a Methodist minister in 1956.

    After receiving his degree, he served as associate director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Minnesota until 1958. He then served as minister of the Protestant chapel at the University of the Philippines until 1962.

    In 1963, he returned to Chicago to study at the Divinity School. He received his A.M. in 1965 and his Ph.D. in 1973. From the time he returned here as a student, Brown has held various positions at the University. From 1963 to 1965, he was a Danforth Campus Ministry fellow. He was then Minister for the Interchurch Committee on International Students until 1970, when he became Associate Director of International House and Associate Adviser to Foreign Students.

    In 1973, Brown joined the faculty of the Divinity School as Assistant Professor, serving for the next six years as Coordinator and then Director of Ministerial Studies at the Divinity School. He was named Associate Professor in 1979, the same year he became Dean of Rockefeller Chapel.

    Brown has published numerous articles for religious journals and publications and is the author of Ideology and Community Action (1978). In the Divinity School, he has taught primarily on issues related to ethics and society as well as courses on ministry and preaching.

    Brown also has been an active presence in the community, serving at various times as director of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, as a consultant to Crossroads International Student Center and as a representative of the Ray School PTA. He also has performed with the Rockefeller Chapel Choir, the Lyric Opera Supplementary Choir, the Chicago Light Opera Company and the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company.

    -- Jeff Makos