Last updateWed, 20 Sep 2017 9am

Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in Stanford’s Department of Religious Studies.

Shaw, a historian and theologian who is presently a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, has served as dean of the Episcopal Grace Cathedral since 2010. She previously taught at the University of Oxford.

Shaw, 51, will succeed the Rev. William “Scotty” McLennan, Jr., who is stepping down after 14 years, as Stanford’s spiritual leader in the fall.

Religious leadership

At Stanford, Shaw will provide spiritual, religious and ethical leadership to the university community, serve as minister of Memorial Church and teach religious studies.

“We are lucky to have found in Jane Shaw both a charismatic leader and an accomplished academic to lead our Office for Religious Life,” Etchemendy said. “Dean Shaw is equally committed to the educational mission of the university and the ecumenical mission of Memorial Church.”

Shaw said she is “delighted” to be joining Stanford as dean for religious life.

“The opportunity to serve at this extraordinary university is a great privilege,” she said. “It will be my pleasure to work with so many wonderful colleagues and students to relate religious and ethical questions to the cutting-edge work being done at Stanford University, and to provide spiritual leadership for this exceptional academic community. I am also thrilled to be joining the excellent religious studies department as a professor.”

Shaw oversaw the mission, vision and spiritual life of Grace Cathedral and provided leadership to the extended community. During her time as dean, the church experienced growth in all areas, including in its artistic, cultural and educational events, which tripled over the past four years. She founded a resident artist program and developed educational programming that related questions of values and ethics to the issues of the day, such as the environment and technology.

“Jane Shaw will bring her vision, broad experience and deep commitment to service to the Office for Religious Life,” said William Damon, professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford and co-chairman of the search committee for the position. “The Stanford community will be enhanced by her spiritual leadership.”

Shaw joined Grace Cathedral from the University of Oxford, where she taught history and theology for 16 years. A historian of modern religion, she is the author of “Miracles in Enlightenment England” (Yale, 2006); “Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and Her Followers” (Yale, 2011), which won the San Francisco Book Festival History Prize; and “A Practical Christianity: Meditations for the Season of Lent” (Morehouse, 2012).

Shaw has given several lectures at Stanford on topics including the role of the modern cathedral and reasons behind the 20th-century flight from institutional religion. In 2009, she delivered the Palm Sunday sermon in Memorial Church. While at Stanford this spring on a short sabbatical leave from Grace Cathedral, she researched the moral imagination, a project she is collaborating on with actress, playwright and Grace Cathedral Trustee Anna Deavere Smith. Shaw is also working on a book on spirituality and mysticism in the early 20th century.

Shaw attended Oxford and earned a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard and a doctorate in history from UC Berkeley. She has received honorary doctorates from Colgate University and Episcopal Divinity School.

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