Laurie Zoloth appointed Divinity School Dean
Laurie Zoloth, a leader in the field of religious studies with particular scholarly interest in bioethics and Jewish studies, has been appointed dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School. She presently serves as a Charles McCormick Deering Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, holding appointments in the Department of Religious Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and in the Feinberg School of Medicine. University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier announced her appointment as dean, which will begin July 1, 2017. Her research explores religion and ethics, drawing from sources ranging from Biblical and Talmudic texts to postmodern Jewish philosophy, including the writings of Emmanuel Levinas. Her scholarship spans the ethics of genetic engineering, stem cell research, synthetic biology, social justice in health care, and how science and medicine are taught. As a founding board member of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, she also researches the practices of interreligious dialogue, exploring how religion plays a role in public discussion and policy.
Ms. Zoloth served as a professor of ethics and Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University before joining the religious studies and medical school faculty at Northwestern. She was the inaugural director of the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University and director of graduate studies in religious studies at Northwestern. At Northwestern, she was founding director of the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and founding director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society at the Feinberg School of Medicine. Zoloth also served as the president of Northwestern’s Faculty Senate.
She is author of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice and co-editor of five books, including Notes from a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics and Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought. She has been the president of the American Academy of Religion and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She is an elected member of the Hastings Center and a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.Her work on bioethics and health care led her to serve on the NASA Advisory Council, the space agency’s highest civilian advisory board; the International Planetary Protection Committee; the National Recombinant DNA Advisory Board, and the executive committee of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. She served as chair of the first bioethics advisory board at the Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute and has testified in front of Congress, the President’s Commission on Bioethics and state legislatures.
Ms. Zoloth began her career as a neonatal nurse working in impoverished communities. She said those early years are central to how she views religious studies and bioethics—an approach that brings together theoretical exploration with an understanding of how arguments of theology and moral philosophy can address societal challenges.
She succeeds Dean Richard A. Rosengarten, who continues as associate professor of religion and literature. Her appointment follows a national search, informed by a Divinity School faculty committee chaired by Dan Arnold, associate professor of the philosophy of religions. (Adapted from a UC press release.)