Friday, August 24, 2007

From the Chaplain to the Institute

Dear Friends:

In 1955 when Kresge Auditorium and The Chapel were opened there was a good deal of conversation at MIT about having a Dean of the Chapel on the model of Duke University. The names tossed about in good MIT fashion were noteworthy. Ultimately, however, nothing came of it. When President James Killian left Cambridge to become Science Advisor to President Eisenhower, the notion died quietly. In the subsequent half-century there were always chaplains on campus serving established religious traditions. They were an outstanding group. Mike Bloy, John Crocker, Scott Paradise, Bernard Campbell and Jessica Crist come to mind.

At the same time, the Institute was well served by Dean Robert Holden, an ordained Unitarian minister, who was de facto chaplain to the Institute. He kept an eye on the religious communities on campus and on just about everything else that went on here. He was proud of the chapel and a quarter century after his retirement, there are those who call his name with a bit of reverence. In 1981, I moved onto campus with my family and became the Dean in Residence trying to fill the large shoes that Bob Holden left behind.

Now it is a new day and Dean Larry Benedict approached me last fall to ask if I would take responsibility for religious life on campus. After 28 years of service as a Dean dealing with often difficult situations, to be challenged by this new role was very attractive. On January 1, 2007 I became the first official Chaplain to the Institute.

The title is intentional. The role will serve the entire community: students, staff, faculty and research staff. In addition to the symbolism, the goal for the Chaplain to the Institute is to foster dialogue across religious boundaries while at the same time supporting the communities of faith that exist at MIT. I am an ordained Christian minister, but my role is not to advocate for one community or another, but to help create a wider community that has room for all shades of belief and unbelief, a community that nurtures and supports the healthy development of interior life during the university years. It is a daunting task.

This blog will appear regularly. On my web site information about upcoming events and activities will appear also. There will be links to articles about different ministries on campus. MIT remains a vital community drawing the best from all of us. We covet your support and encouragement.

Dr. Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute