L. Gregory Jones, dean of the Divinity School, resumed office in August 2018 after Elaine Heath unexpectedly stepped down. Greg Jones previously served as the dean from 1997 to 2010. Jones spoke with the Chronicle to reflect on what convinced him to come back to Duke, his goals for the next few years and what he hopes to do to address complaints about the treatment of LGBTQ+ and African American students that intensified during Heath's tenure. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Chronicle: What convinced you to come back?
L. Gregory Jones: It came as a great surprise when president and provost asked if I would serve again. I actually had lots of other things in view for this year. When I talked to some people about what gifts they thought the school needed and what strengths I could bring, it became pretty clear to me that this was a sense of a calling. It felt right. Since then, I have been warmly welcomed back and I see it as an opportunity to serve a school I deeply love and care about.
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TC: What is the Divinity School doing to build interfaith bridges?
GJ: I believe that the best pathway to peace is through interfaith understanding. We were amongst the first to recruit Abdullah Antepli, chief representative of Muslim affairs and adjunct faculty of Islamic studies, as the Muslim chaplain at Duke and he has been an active part of our community ever since. We recently received notification of a grant that will be used by Antepli, Laura Suzanne Lieber—professor of religious studies and a rabbi—and Ellen Davis—Amos Ragan Kearns professor of Bible and practical theology—to co-teach a course and lead projects around the subject of religion as a source of violence and religion as a source of peace, in an effort to build interfaith bridges.
TC: What do you think has changed between your last tenure and now?
GJ: A lot has changed and I have changed. I came back 8 years later with fresh eyes, eager to see how the school had developed and grown. I'm not trying to focus on what I was used to, but on where the school is now and how we can strengthen it, make it more inclusive and healthy and set it on a smooth trajectory for the future.