After a 17-year tenure leading Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean Jan Love will step down from her role as Mary Lee Hardin Willard dean when her term concludes at the end of next summer. She will rejoin the faculty as a professor of Christianity and world politics, but plans to take a sabbatical during the 2024-25 academic year and retire in summer 2025, according to an Aug. 9 press release.

“My time at Emory and especially Candler, has been a privilege, an honor, and the most fulfilling, joyous, and fun part of my entire career,” Love wrote in an email to the Wheel. “I will leave with some grief but with an extraordinary feeling of gratitude.”

Love joined the Emory community as Candler’s first female dean in 2007. She previously worked as a professor at the University of South Carolina and as CEO of United Methodist Women, now called United Women in Faith.

In the press release, Love called herself an “unusual choice” for the position, as she was Candler’s first dean without a seminary degree or pastoral experience. She holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University.

Candler has seen growth and innovation under Love’s leadership, University President Gregory L. Fenves said in the press release. Fenves called Love “a transformative leader” within the University.

Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean Jan Love will step down from her role next summer. Courtesy of Emory University

On top of acting as dean, Love served as interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs from December 2019 to July 2021. In this role, she was tasked with helping manage the COVID-19 pandemic on campus and easing Fenves’ transition into his presidential role. Love also helped facilitate the arrival of her successor, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Ravi V. Bellamkonda, in 2021.

Bellamkonda called Love an “incredible leader and innovator” in the Aug. 9 press release. He added that under Love’s leadership, Candler has seen significant development in recruiting faculty, creating new scholarships and increasing the school’s endowment.  

Candler has seen changes from an expanded curriculum to a new complex finished in 2014 under Love’s leadership. During her tenure, the theology school began offering three new degrees as well as five dual-degree programs. Candler will also launch a new hybrid Master of Divinity degree this fall, allowing students to take most of their classes online. 

Love also oversaw Candler’s diversification of the student body and faculty. She increased endowed professorships by 44 percent and established an endowed deanship. Additionally, Love led The Candler Foundry’s establishment in 2019. The program focuses on creating access to theological education through three to six week courses led by experts in theology, ethics, scripture and church leadership. 

During the previous academic year, Love also chaired the search for Oxford College’s new dean, which concluded with the selection of Loyola University Chicago Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Professor of English Badia Ahad

Love’s announcement follows two years defined by administrative transitions across the University. Similarly to Love, Emory University School of Law Dean Mary Anne Bobinski announced in March that she will step down from her role as dean to rejoin the faculty after her term ends in summer 2024. 

Bellamkonda will announce a national search for Love’s replacement this fall after the selection of a search firm and a search advisory committee.

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Spencer Friedland (26C) is from Long Island, New York and is the Emory Wheel's Managing News Editor. He is a Philosophy, Politics and Law major and has a secondary major in Film. Spencer is also a part of the Franklin Fellows program at Emory.