Skip to main content

Dean Townes Category

Charge to the Class of 2021

May. 17, 2021—Delivered by Vanderbilt Divinity School dean, emilie m. townes on May 16, 2021 whether we are talking calendar year or academic year, this has been some year we have lived and it’s good to see so many of you in the flesh rather than in zoom boxes those boxes had their advantages…and disadvantages but i...

Read more


2020 Charge to the Graduates

May. 2, 2021—Delivered by Emilie M. Towes on May 2, 2021 You are the only graduating class to get two charges from the dean. I’m not sure if this will help or hurt but here we are. In this unusual moment, let me begin by reminding you that last year I began by quoting Thomas Paine and...

Read more


This is the first step not the conclusion

Apr. 20, 2021—A reflection from our dean, Emilie M. Townes Guilty on all three counts. These three counts can be—and hopefully will—be positive steps to not only police reform but to our very broken criminal justice system where the scales of justice are not blind but often tilted against the poor, people of color, women, queer, trans,...

Read more


the power of words to harm and heal

Apr. 2, 2021—Emilie M. Townes Spring Faculty Assembly Presentation Delivered 1 April 2021 download a PDF of this presentation with its original formatting.   perhaps you are familiar with this childhood chant: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me i remember my teachers, grandmother, parents, aunts, and other mothers teaching it...

Read more


Looking for joy

Mar. 4, 2021—  A monthly reflection from Emilie M. Townes, Vanderbilt Divinity School dean. Our family has been dealing with the deaths of three of our elders over a five-month period in the last months of 2020.  Their passing would have been hard without a pandemic raging around us, but the pandemic made it more so because...

Read more


We the people

Feb. 1, 2021—Dean’s message from the January 2021 Spire e-newsletter It begins with a country being formed by taking the land of others because darker-skinned people were (and are still) judged as less than lighter-skinned people.  This founding kernel of our country has grown over the years and has emerged at various times with supremacist values on...

Read more


My vote counts

Nov. 3, 2020—Guest post by Emilie M. Townes, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society. This reflection originally appeared in the November 3, 2020  “Spire”electronic newsletter. Growing up in the liberal segregated south of Durham, NC in the late 1950s and 1960s, one of the things that was drummed into little Black kids’ heads was the power...

Read more


We have heard this before

May. 31, 2020—Words from emilie m. townes, dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair, Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society Once again, a Black man was killed while in police custody.  The images of his life slipping away because of the knee planted on his neck by the White police officer as...

Read more


VDS Building Dedication and Convocation

Sep. 11, 2019—View the building dedication and convocation writeup, here, and photos from the events below, by clicking on the image.

Read more


vote your conscience

Nov. 5, 2018—monthly message from emilie m. townes, vanderbilt divinity school dean One of the most exciting things I did as a youth was to vote in my first election. I asked my folks and other adults over and over again what they actually did behind that curtain. The idea that I would soon be behind that...

Read more