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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

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Joseph Williamson to resign as dean of religious life

After 12 years as head of the Chapel and Office of Religious Life, Dean Joseph Williamson plans to step down June 30.

He announced his resignation during Sunday's Chapel service, which he coordinates each week and helps lead.

Williamson said he decided to retire so he could spend more time with his family and on lifelong interests, such as the intersection of religion and politics and increasing educational opportunities for the poor.

"It's been a good ride," Williamson said Tuesday. "Princeton is such a stimulating environment."

In addition to serving as senior minister to the Protestant congregation in the University Chapel, Williamson is a member of President Harold T. Shapiro's cabinet. He is responsible for ecumenical Christian worship in the Chapel and three University interfaith services each year. His office also coordinates the Chapel music program and the Student Volunteers Council, and works with campus denominational and non-denominational chaplaincies.

"Joe has an extraordinary gift for and sensitivity to words -- and communication through music, as well," said Vice President Thomas Wright Jr. "He has been very important in providing leadership for the music program, and religious life at the University has been greatly strengthened."

Vice President for Campus Life Janet Dickerson will conduct a search for Williamson's successor.

Before coming to Princeton in 1989, Williamson was a pastor in Seattle at Plymouth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ. He was an active member of the community there and working with ecumenical and civic groups such as the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Pacific Northwest Interfaith Network for Economic Justice, Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Coalition Against Contra Aid.

Williamson received his bachelor's degree from Eastern Nazarene College and his bachelor of divinity degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary. He received his master's degree from Andover Newton Theological School, where he remained as assistant professor of theology and preaching for six years.

After receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1968, he served as pastor and co-pastor for 13 years at the federated Presbyterian and Congregationalist Church of the Covenant in Boston.

Last year, the Association of College and University Religious Affairs presented Williamson and two others with the organization's first lifetime achievement award. The honor recognized the long and distinguished leadership and service Williamson has demonstrated in higher education.

Williamson "profoundly deepened the humanity and extended the hospitality" of Princeton, the association said. He "developed a kind of collegiality with faculty and students that has led to productive synergy, great programs and worthy risks."

Contact: Justin Harmon (609) 258-3601

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