Historically, the role of the dean of Duke Chapel has changed as has the title. Currently, the dean of Duke Chapel oversees the operation of the chapel and plays an integral role in connecting the academic and spiritual lives of the university's students, faculty and staff. In addition to overseeing planned worship, counseling and preaching, the dean serves as a focal point for ethical and theological discussions on campus covering a wide range of topical issues. The collection contains materials of the Minister's office, the Chaplain, Duke University Church, Friends of Duke Chapel, student religious activities and organization. Materials include files on former preachers at Duke Chapel, photographs, pamphlets, clippings, correspondence and audio cassettes. Materials range in date from 1940-1984.
Boxes 1-10 contain A84-22. Box 11 contains A83-76 and A84-25. Boxes 12-13 contain A84-25. Box 14 contains A84-25 and A84-99. Boxes 15-18 contain A84-99. Boxes 19-20 contain A99-64. Box 21 contains A97-41.
The position of Minister of the University has undergone several title changes and reporting lines since it was first filled in 1932, the same year the Chapel was first used. While the Chapel was being constructed, President Few specified that it should be non-denominational and that services should not include the usual ceremony and hymn-singing of Protestant churches. Few later modified this approach, but the non-denominational focus was kept.
Initially two professors in the School of Religion, Franklin Hickman and Elbert Russell served as the first Preachers to the University. In late 1937, the campus approved the formation of an interdenominational congregation to be associated with Chapel and the Student Religious Council recommended the employment of a full-time university minister. As a result, Hickman was named the first Dean of the Chapel in 1938. Hickman shared preaching duties with James Cleland after the Divinity School hired him as professor of preaching in 1945. In 1948, Hickman recommended the "Dean of the Chapel" title be abolished, since it was a deanship in name only. Cleland protested but did not gain the deanship title until 1956, after Hickman retired.
When Cleland retired and Wilkerson left to become president of Greensboro College, Robert Young was appointed to the newly named Minister to the University position. A 1972 campus study of the dean and chaplain positions done in advance of Cleland's retirement recommended the change. William Willimon was hired as Minister to the University in 1984, and the Board of Trustees changed his title to Dean of the Chapel in 1989. Willimon, like Cleland, served as a professor in the Divinity School.
Preacher to the University
1932-38 Franklin S. Hickman, Methodist
1933-37 Elbert Russell, Quaker
1949-55 James T. Cleland, Presbyterian
Dean of the Chapel
1938-48 Franklin S. Hickman
1956-73 James T. Cleland
1983 Robert T. Young, honorary title given after resignation, Methodist
1989-2004 William H. Willimon, Methodist
2005-Present Samuel Wells, Anglican
1954-57 Barney L. Jones, Methodist
Chaplain to the University
1958-1972 Howard Wilkinson, Methodist
Minister to the University
1973-83 Robert T. Young
1984-89 William H. Willimon