The idea of the House originated in 1893 in conversation between Herbert L. Willett, who would be named the first dean of the Disciples Divinity House, and W. D. MacClintock, professor of English at the new University of Chicago. The University's founding president, William Rainey Harper, encouraged the plan and hoped that other religious bodies would follow the Disciples’ example. In June 1894 the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago was chartered.
By 1898 Dean Willett was able to report that a group of twenty was “in residence and at work in the House.” In actuality, there was no building in which these twenty resided and worked, nor would there be one for another thirty years. Before a building was completed, there would be a second dean, W. E. Garrison, and then a third, E. S. Ames, would begin his deanship.
In those days, Dean Ames would explain, “The House is not something you can see, it is not something made with hands. It is an idea, an association. You get into it by becoming a student for the Disciples ministry or other religious work. It does things to the minds and the hearts of students, and its influence is attracting men and women here to study.”
A handsome gothic limestone building was dedicated in 1928. Scholarship endowments were built. Dean Ames was succeeded by W. Barnett Blakemore, Don S. Browning, W. Clark Gilpin, and Kristine A. Culp, who has been dean since 1991.
Today “the House” includes the tangible resources of a building and endowments, but it remains principally an ethos and an association. When you enter its doors as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar, you cross a threshold to excellence and enter a legacy of visionary leadership. Minds and hearts are engaged in the high calling of service, integrity, and intelligent faith.