Theological School Dean Javier Viera to Leave Drew

Viera to begin appointment as president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in January 2021

June 2020 – Drew University Vice Provost & Dean of the Theological School and Professor of Pastoral Theology Javier Viera will be leaving the school after 2020, President MaryAnn Baenninger announced in an email to the University community. Viera will become president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology in Evanston, Illinois, associated with the United Methodist Church and located on the campus of Northwestern University.

“In his six years in The Forest, Javier has led our Theological School with an earnest and open spirit, which has characterized the critical work undertaken by the seminary under his leadership,” said Baenninger. “Javier and I came to Drew around the same time, and he has been an invaluable resource to both Drew in general, and to me personally during that time. I have the utmost confidence that Javier will continue to do important, inspiring work in his well-deserved new role at Garrett-Evangelical.”

Viera joined Drew as dean of the Theological School and professor of pastoral theology in 2014. Three years later, he received tenure and the title of vice provost. He pioneered the transformation of the school’s curriculum to be more responsive to the student learning experience; increased enrollment of new students, retention of returning students and contributions from donors and alums; reordered the school’s organizational structure; reignited historic partnerships and forged new ones; adapted financial and budgetary models to align with those of the university at large; and solidified the place of Drew Theological School in the overall mission of the University.

Javier has also been a strong voice during the challenges for full equality within the United Methodist Church, and in the struggle for racial justice in the United States, and staunchly holds up what he referred to as Drew’s “unequivocal support and commitment to equity, diversity and full inclusion.”

“He is steadfast in his position that the school’s primary work is that of teaching and research that serves and disrupts the church, and transforms the way Drew educates the next generation of faith leaders who are rooted, innovative and courageous,” said Baenninger. “He leaves Drew and the Theological School better for his service to it.”

“What I am most proud of is the renewed sense of purpose and clarity of mission with which our faculty is engaging in its work, and which I believe is allowing them to better prepare our students to confidently lead in unsettling times,” said Viera. “I am a better, more effective leader because of the colleagues I have surrounded myself with and partnered with to accomplish great work on behalf of the institutions and people we serve.”

Viera will take an earned sabbatical during the fall 2020 semester to focus on his research project, which explores the intellectual and spiritual history of decolonial movements in his native Puerto Rico. He will begin his new role at Garrett-Evangelical on January 1, 2021.

On September 1, when Viera begins his sabbatical, Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre will step into the role as acting dean of the Theological School, while continuing her work as associate dean of graduate studies. “We are fortunate that Melanie has agreed to serve as acting dean,” said Provost-elect Jessica Lakin. “I am very much looking forward to working closely with her in this capacity.” Details will be forthcoming about a national search for a new dean.

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