The School of Theology. Sewanee: The University of the South


The Very Rev. William S. Stafford Announces Retirement


On Oct. 31, 2011, the Very Rev. William S. Stafford, dean of The School of Theology, announced his decision to retire from his position, effective June 30, 2012.

"Bill Stafford has served as dean with great distinction,” stated Dr. John McCardell, 16th and current vice-chancellor of the University of the South. “I admire him immensely. He has strengthened the faculty of The School of Theology and been an articulate voice for the importance of residential theological education. His intelligence, his humility, and his understanding of the whole Church, broadly defined, in all its richness and diversity, have set an exemplary standard of leadership. I join his friends, his colleagues and, perhaps, most important, his legion of former students, in thanking him for his conspicuous service to the Church and for the many ways in which his remarkable career will shape that Church for many years to come."

As dean of The School of Theology, Stafford has served as a senior officer in the life of the University as a whole, as the leader of the Episcopal seminary, and the director of the Programs Center. Stafford has primary responsibility for oversight of the life and mission of The School of Theology, in close consultation with the vice-chancellor and with his colleagues. As Stafford explained, “The nature of my work up until now has been primarily internal, overseeing the greatest transition the School has known since the fifties.”

“With his characteristic gentle, humane touch, Bill stepped into the role of dean after the untimely resignation of his predecessor,” explained the Rev. Dr. James Turrell, associate dean for academic affairs. “He rebuilt trust, crafted the strongest faculty in the school's history, and oversaw important initiatives, including the development and execution of a strategic plan for Education for Ministry.”

During Stafford’s tenure as dean, the School launched a new D.Min. in Preaching program and is preparing to offer new master’s degrees in Religion and the Environment and in Theology and Literature. Stafford hired a new associate dean for community life (a new position for the School) and new faculty in New Testament, Church History, Christian Ethics, Homiletics, Pastoral Theology, and Systematic Theology. He coordinated a committee to assess the Education for Ministry program, which culminated in the hiring of a new director and its recently approved comprehensive strategic plan.

The School, on solid footing financially, academically, and theologically, is now poised to grow and embrace future challenges. In concert with the University of the South, a new strategic plan for the School is in process. A master plan, recently approved by the Board of Trustees, paves the way for new buildings and academic resources for the seminary.

“To take these next steps, the School needs a dean who actively represents it nationally and internationally, to the Church and to the world, and who can greatly widen its network of partners and support,” stated Stafford. “My decision to retire came after a long period of prayerful discernment. It is time for me to make way for a new dean.”

Vice-Chancellor McCardell will appoint a Search Advisory Committee which will be co-chaired by Bishop Neil Alexander, chancellor of the University of the South, and Provost Linda Lankewicz. The vice-chancellor will name the rest of the committee and announce its composition in the coming weeks.

Stafford has been dean of The School of Theology since January 1, 2005. Stafford also holds the Charles T. Quintard Chair of Dogmatic Theology. He came to Sewanee from Virginia Theological Seminary where he had served since 1976, beginning as assistant professor of Church History, finally as vice president and associate dean for academic affairs and the David J. Ely Professor of Church History. He is a specialist in the medieval and Reformation periods. He did doctoral study at the University of Strasbourg in France and post-doctoral at Durham and Cambridge in England. Stafford has been an Episcopal priest since 1982, serving in American and English parishes.

“It was a great day for Sewanee when Bill Stafford and his wife, Barbara, after deep prayer, accepted the invitation to lead The School of Theology,” stated Dr. Joel Cunningham, Sewanee’s former vice-chancellor. “His gifts of grace and devotion have served the University and the School extraordinarily well, and his contributions will make a major difference for generations to come.”

Stafford was born in San Francisco, Ca., and spent his youth in California between the west coast and the Sierras. He is married to Barbara Marie Vail Stafford and they have five children.

A photo of Dean Stafford is available for reproduction purposes.

Read a personal letter from Dean Stafford announcing his retirement.

Read Stafford's bio and CV.