News at Princeton

Monday, July 28, 2014
Alison Boden

Alison Boden


Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago Divinity School



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Boden named dean of religious life

The Rev. Alison Boden, dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago for the past 12 years, has been named dean of religious life and the chapel at Princeton University, effective Aug. 1.

Boden, who also has served as a senior lecturer in Chicago's divinity school and college, has worked to raise the chapel's profile on the campus, in the city and throughout the region. Her efforts have included opening an Interreligious Center in the chapel's basement, creating programs on such topics as religion and violence, and organizing and leading delegations abroad to explore the subject of religion, human rights and social change.

"We are extremely pleased that Rev. Boden has accepted our offer," said Janet Dickerson, vice president for campus life, who led the search. "She has a national reputation as a preacher and leader, and she has a demonstrated and deep commitment to social justice and to interfaith collaboration and dialogue. She was selected from an outstanding pool of applicants, and we are honored that she has chosen to join our campus life team."

Princeton's Office of Religious Life gives care and support to the many religious communities that flourish on the campus. The dean provides leadership for more than 30 denominational and nondenominational chaplaincies and student religious organizations, and is responsible for offering moral and spiritual guidance within the context of the University's secular environment. As dean of the chapel, Boden will serve as liturgical leader to the University Chapel congregation. She will be responsible for ecumenical worship and for the three principal University interfaith services -- Opening Exercises, the Service of Commemoration and Remembrance, and Baccalaureate.

At Chicago, Boden spearheaded a three-year, $1 million project to convert Rockefeller Memorial Chapel's cavernous basement into a five-room prayer, worship and meditation center that opened in April 2006. She also worked to create an Interreligious Council, a body of students representing each religious tradition, responsible for programming, community-building and promoting respect for and between religious groups on campus.

In addition to creating a variety of programs on religious and ethical subjects for the campus community, Boden has developed interrreligious opportunities for worship or reflection centered around important observances and issues such as 9/11, Earth Day and sexual violence. She also has worked to expand programs in the sacred arts, including drama, film, puppetry and other media.

Boden is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She previously served as the Protestant chaplain at Union College for a year and as the university chaplain at Bucknell University for three years before joining the University of Chicago in 1995.

A graduate of Vassar College with an A.B. in drama, Boden pursued a career as an actress in New York for several years. During that time she served as a volunteer on the pediatric AIDS ward at Harlem Hospital. She found the experience to be "challenging on many levels, including the spiritual," and it compelled her to enroll at Union Theological Seminary, where she earned a master of divinity degree. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.

Boden's teaching interests have included the formational issues and practical skills of ministry, human rights and religion, aspects of prayer, and religion and violence. She is the author of numerous articles and chapters on religion in the academy, interreligious organizing and other topics. Her book "Women's Rights and Religious Practice" will be published this fall.

"I am delighted to be joining the Princeton community," Boden said. "I've long respected its religious life and chapel programs as among the very best in the country. I am eager to join in the good work of spiritual support, imaginative programming and wonderful collaborations for all at Princeton."

Boden will succeed Thomas Breidenthal, the dean since 2002, who resigned in January to become bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. Frederick Borsch, who was dean from 1981 to 1988, returned to serve in that role on an interim basis during the spring semester.

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