St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf names director of new Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community

St. Olaf College Vice President for Mission Jo Beld has announced the appointment of Deanna Thompson ’89 as the founding director of the new Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community.

Thompson, who is currently a professor of religion at Hamline University, will begin at St. Olaf on July 10. In addition to her role as director of the Lutheran Center, she will serve as the next Martin E. Marty Regents Chair in Religion and the Academy.

“It’s a joy and an honor to welcome Dr. Thompson back to her alma mater to launch this new and exciting work for the college,” Beld says. “She is uniquely gifted as both a thought-leader and a community-builder who will help all of us think deeply, and think together, about what we believe and why, and what difference our beliefs make in the way we live our lives.”

Dr. Deanna Thompson ’89 is the founding director of the new Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community.

The Lutheran Center, which was established this fall with a $1 million gift from St. Olaf Regent Tim Maudlin ’73 and his wife, Jan Maudlin ’72, will encourage the interreligious exploration of faith, values, and vocation in ways that enrich relationships within and beyond the St. Olaf community.

As director of the center, Thompson will develop programs and activities that build community among Oles of all backgrounds and beliefs through shared exploration of core commitments and life choices. Much of her work will be carried out in collaboration with other offices, programs, and student organizations on campus.

“I’m delighted and honored to help St. Olaf boldly claim a 21st century Lutheran identity that actively embraces those of other faiths alongside those who claim no religion at all, and in so doing deepen St. Olaf’s commitment to creating community built on radical neighbor-love, both on the Hill and beyond,” Thompson says.

A respected scholar in the study of Martin Luther and feminist theology, Thompson has more than two decades of teaching, leadership, and administrative experience. She is an internationally known scholar and speaker, synthesizing Lutheran and feminist theologies and bringing them to bear on a wide array of contemporary concerns, from racial justice to social media to living with cancer.

At St. Olaf, Thompson majored in religion and completed a Paracollege concentration in religion and politics in post-war America. She went on to complete a Master of Arts in Religion at Yale University Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in theology at Vanderbilt University. Since joining the Hamline faculty in 1996, she has offered courses in religion, African American studies, women’s studies, and social justice.

Thompson currently serves as the chair of the Hamline Religion Department. She has also served in a number of leadership positions in the American Academy of Religion, including eight years as a member of the Board of Directors and six years as Director of the Upper Midwest Region. In recent years, her work has fostered significant inter-religious engagement both within and beyond the classroom, largely in partnership with Interfaith Action of St. Paul.

She has written a number of books, including Glimpsing Resurrection: Trauma, Cancer, and Ministry (2018) and Crossing the Divide: Luther, Feminism, and the Cross (2004).