Drew University’s Theological School, a place so diverse that no ethnic or religious group can claim a majority, has a new dean who will focus on “building and maintaining ties to a rapidly globalizing church,” the Madison institution said on Wednesday.
Rev. Dr. Javier A. Viera, executive minister at Christ Church, United Methodist, in New York, was chosen to succeed the Rev. Dr. Virginia Samuel, the interim dean.
“I am of the mind that ours is a moment in history ripe for creativity, ingenuity and daring. Having the opportunity to build upon Drew’s international legacy is something that energizes me and builds upon my prior professional experience,” the Rev. Viera said in his application letter.
“Javier Viera is a dedicated pastor, an exceptional administrator, a devoted teacher, and a person of great integrity,” Dr. J. Terry Todd, associate professor of American religious studies and head of the dean search committee, said in a statement. “Dr. Viera will guide our Theological School with grace and confidence into a rapidly changing future.”
The new dean, who is a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, holds degrees from Duke, Yale and Columbia. He has two daughters, and counts baseball and tennis among his hobbies.
Here is the full statement from Drew University:
DREW UNIVERSITY APPOINTS THE REV. DR. JAVIER VIERA
NEW DEAN OF THE THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL
Dr. Viera is the Executive Minister at Christ Church, United Methodist, in New York City.
Madison, NJ – Noted for his experience as a minister and administrator and recognized for his global vision and record of strategic relationship building, the Rev. Dr. Javier A. Viera has been chosen to be the next dean of the Theological School, announced Drew President Vivian A. Bull.
“I am very pleased that Dr. Viera has chosen to come to Drew,” said Bull. “He brings great experience in the church and in community outreach that will enrich the work of our colleagues in the Theological School, as well as in the whole university,” she said.
Viera’s appointment was approved today, April 30, 2014, by the Executive Committee of the Drew Board of Trustees. He will begin on July 1.
Currently, Viera is executive minister of Christ Church in New York City and holds advanced degrees from Duke, Yale and Columbia. In addition to his pastoral duties at Christ Church, Viera spearheaded efforts to form partnerships with the Methodist Church in Colombia, promoting economic development projects and cross-cultural efforts to build health clinics, churches and job training centers. Viera has also served on the governing boards of two university-based divinity schools, at Yale and Duke.
Viera was selected as dean of the Theological School after a four-month international search process launched in late November 2013, undertaken with the assistance of AGB Search, the Washington, D.C.-based recruiting firm that assisted in Drew’s recent presidential search.
Viera will succeed the Rev. Dr. Virginia Samuel T’75, associate dean of contextual learning for the Theological School, who has served as the interim dean since the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kuan departed in 2013 to become the seventh president of Claremont School of Theology.
“Javier Viera is a dedicated pastor, an exceptional administrator, a devoted teacher, and a person of great integrity,” said Dr. J. Terry Todd, associate professor of American religious studies, who headed the dean search committee, “Dr. Viera will guide our Theological School with grace and confidence into a rapidly changing future.”
The Theological School at Drew University has its roots in the Methodist tradition and serves an ecumenical student body of around 460, a population so diverse that not one ethnic or cultural group claims a majority.
“Javier has spent his professional life building bridges between the church and higher education,” said Todd. “He has a proven track record in leading complex organizations, including extensive experience in fundraising, and has a vision for the future of theological education that holds great promise for us in these challenging times.”
In his letter of application, Viera touched on this very issue. “I am of the mind that ours is a moment in history ripe for creativity, ingenuity and daring. Having the opportunity to build upon Drew’s international legacy is something that energizes me and builds upon my prior professional experience.”
The committee felt strongly that that Viera’s increasing visibility within the denomination made him the ideal candidate to lead the Theological School in building and maintaining ties to a rapidly globalizing church.
Viera earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College, his Master of Divinity from Duke University and his Master of Sacred Theology from Yale University. In 2012, he completed his doctorate in adult learning and leadership at Columbia University. He was recognized as a Canon Scholar at Yale and a Dean’s Scholar at Duke.
He currently advises and co-directs doctoral student dissertations at Teachers College at Columbia University. He has delivered sermons at both Harvard and Yale, and has done scholarly work on interreligious relations and comparative religions. Viera is also a Fellow at the Shalom Center’s Christian Leadership Initiative in Jerusalem.
Before joining the staff of Christ Church, Viera served as senior minister at Mamaroneck United Methodist Church in New York.
One of the first projects Viera will undertake at Drew is leading the faculty in its revision of the Theological School’s flagship Master of Divinity curriculum. He also will be responsible for supervising the training of ministers, religious leaders, and scholars, supporting faculty scholarship and development, and strengthening the Graduate Division of Religion.
Viera is a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has two daughters and counts tennis and baseball among his hobbies.
About the Theological School at Drew University
Founded in 1867, Drew Theological School has a distinguished international history in training clergy for the United Methodist Church and other Protestant denominations. With a full-time faculty of 23 and a student body of 461, the Theological School is also a center of ecumenical scholarship and social action. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Sacred Theology and Doctor of Ministry. The Doctor of Philosophy degree is offered through the Graduate Division of Religion, housed within the Theological School. The Theological School is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and is one of three schools within Drew University in Madison, N.J.