July 9, 2015
Dear Members of the SMU Community:
William B. Lawrence has informed me that he will retire as dean of the Perkins School of Theology, effective May 31, 2016. During a well-earned leave of absence for the academic year 2016-17, he will make a decision on returning to campus as professor of American church history in fall 2017.
Bill Lawrence has led Perkins as dean since 2002. During that time he has guided the School’s addition of programs and centers, increase in diversity, expanded outreach to under-served communities, and 60 percent growth in number of endowed faculty. He has provided excellent leadership in the face of the rising challenges to professional education from which schools of theology have not been exempt. His reasoned perspectives and spirit of service have led to his election to important leadership positions within The United Methodist Church. Among them, he has served as president of the UMC Judicial Council, the highest judicial body rendering decisions on constitutional and legal matters in the Church. At SMU, he chaired several of our decanal search committees.
SMU Trustee Michael McKee, Resident Bishop of the North Texas Annual Conference, notes that Dean Lawrence led completion of major renovations of all of the Perkins School of Theology’s academic buildings and construction of the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall. “The addition of new faculty has also been important for the future of Perkins,” he added. “Bill’s contribution to civic life in the Dallas community through his columns in the media and his involvement in inter-faith gatherings and conversations has modeled for all of us the importance of the Christian community’s thoughtful and faithful participation in both religious and public affairs.”
SMU greatly appreciates Dean Lawrence’s service. He leaves us well-situated to recruit an exceptional new dean for Perkins and to maintain SMU’s rising quality.
Samuel Holland, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, will serve as chair of the search committee, whose membership will be announced soon.
I know you join me in extending gratitude and best wishes to Bill and his wife, Naomi, in the years ahead.