Date: November 9, 2022
It is my deep pleasure to announce that, with the support of the faculty, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint the Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams as Dodge Professor of Biblical Interpretation. This is one of the earliest faculty chairs in existence at VTS, and was first held by Joseph Packard (1871-1897) and most recently by the Rev. Katherine Grieb before her retirement in 2020.
Awarding a faculty chair is never automatic, and properly comes only after a faculty member has contributed an impressive body of work to the field and to the seminary. It is particularly apt that this chair in Biblical Interpretation be awarded to Dr. Fentress-Williams given her focus on the dialogic and inter-textual nature of scripture, as well as her embrace of both the church and academy. Her published works such as Holy Imagination: A Literary Guide to the Whole Bible (Abingdon, 2021) and Ruth (Abingdon Old Testament Commentary Series, 2012) highlight the theological and literary complexity of Scripture, and give the reader tools to interpret with depth and imagination. Her service as the Old Testament editor for the CEB Women’s Bible edition of the Common English Bible (Abingdon, 2016) provided a fresh and accessible approach to the ancient text.
In addition to teaching and writing, she is also an excellent preacher. She has given sermons in prominent contexts across the county including Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. She also gave the Gardner C. Taylor Lecture at Duke Divinity School, and was the McClendon Scholar-in-Residence at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in D.C.
The Rev. Dr. Fentress-Williams came to VTS in 2002 after as Professor of Hebrew Bible and Director of the Black Ministries Certificate Program at Hartford Seminary from 1993-2002. She earned her Ph.D., M.Phil., M.A., and M.Div. at Yale University, and her A.B. at Princeton University. Dr. Fentress-Williams was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel in the National Baptist Convention and Progressive National Baptist Convention in 2012, and serves as Senior Assistant to the Pastor for Preaching at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria. She was given the Distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Theological Education by Yale Divinity School in 2016.
Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Affairs and
Associate Professor of Old Testament