Hartford Seminary’s Board of Trustees today named Dr. Joel N. Lohr as the Seminary’s next president. On July 16, he will succeed Dr. Heidi Hadsell, who is retiring after leading the Seminary for 18 years.
Dr. Lohr is an award-winning author, scholar, and passionate leader in interreligious relations and higher education. Currently, he is Dean of Religious Life at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., where he holds academic appointments in the School of Education and the Department of Religious Studies.
“I am honored and humbled to join the Hartford Seminary community and serve as its next president,” Dr. Lohr said. “The Seminary’s tagline has been my life’s mission: Exploring Differences, Deepening Faith. No other seminary is doing what HartSem does, and with such excellence. Together we will continue to cast a vision and forge a path toward ever more meaningful dialogue, effective peacemaking, and higher learning as we build enduring ties across religious communities and work to heal our broken world.”
Dr. Lohr is a first-generation college graduate, the son of Dutch immigrants to Canada. He earned a BA in Religious Studies (Trinity Western University, Vancouver, Canada), an MA in Theological Research (University of Durham, England) and a Ph.D. in Religion and Theology (University of Durham, England). Following his doctoral work, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto.
A committee of the Board of Trustees began the process of looking for a new president last summer. Trustee James Robertson led the search.
“We were fortunate to receive applications from many very highly qualified candidates from around the world and particularly fortunate to attract the interest of such an extraordinary person as Dr. Lohr,” Robertson said. “Hartford Seminary is a unique and vibrant institution, and Dr. Lohr is the right person to lead us forward.”
Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Vanda B. McMurtry said he was most impressed by Dr. Lohr’s personal story.
“Dr. Lohr’s academic credentials are impressive. He has a breadth of professional experience not often seen in a person his age. Yet I was drawn to him by the touching story of his childhood in rural Ontario, the son of Dutch immigrants who reached out and adopted needy children of Asian descent, a very rare thing in that time and place. Dr. Lohr is a man whose own family taught him what it is to love the other, to protect the vulnerable, to appreciate the inherent strength and goodness of God’s family in all its variety. He is one whom we can trust to lead our diverse community of faith. Dr. Lohr can do it because he has lived it.”
During her tenure, Dr. Hadsell has raised the local, national and international profile of Hartford Seminary, which is viewed as a leader in the critical area of interfaith relations. She led the Seminary through the rise of Islamophobia after 9/11 and the economic downturn of the late 2000s. Increasing student enrollment was a hallmark of her tenure.
“Hartford Seminary has both an enduring legacy and a fresh way of looking at theological education in an increasingly pluralistic world,” Dr. Hadsell said. “I’m placing our innovative programming and our wonderful and diverse community in very capable hands with Dr. Lohr, and I wish him all the best.”
Dr. Lohr is an accomplished scholar and teacher who will join Hartford Seminary’s faculty as Professor of Bible and Interreligious Dialogue. Dr. Lohr’s research has focused on the Bible, specifically the Torah/Pentateuch, as well as Jewish-Christian relations and dialogue, Abrahamic faith dialogue, and Intercultural Competence, Diversity, and Leadership in Higher Education. He has published ten books, both academic and popular. His first monograph, Chosen and Unchosen: Conceptions of Election in the Pentateuch and Jewish-Christian Interpretation, was awarded the R.B.Y. Scott Award by the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies for “outstanding book in the areas of Hebrew Bible and/or the Ancient Near East.” All of his publications, both technical and popular, tie into his love and passion for dialogue.
Despite his academic accomplishments, Dr. Lohr says that his real achievements have come not on paper, or in books published (as important as those have been), but through the deep and meaningful relationships he has formed as a leader at diverse institutions in diverse places. Dr. Lohr has served in seminary and higher education in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., and before that was a successful and sought-after leader in construction management. But his passion is interreligious dialogue and deepening faith, especially when these work together to lead to reconciliation and deeper levels of human connection. Though having gained a reputation for being a detail-oriented, highly productive, problem-solving visionary and administrator, as well as an important representative in fundraising initiatives and other institutional programs, Dr. Lohr has also gained a reputation for being a leader in diplomacy. In helping parties work through conflict, at times polarizing conflicts, he has come to see how powerfully the skills learned in interreligious dialogue can bless and help heal the world.
Dr. Lohr is married to Teresa Lohr and has a daughter, Aviyah, 11. He and his family are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, snowboarding and skiing, and exploring new parks and nature. Dr. Lohr has been a Licensed Lay Reader in the Anglican (Episcopal) Church of Canada. He and his family look forward to finding a local Episcopal church family in the Hartford area to call home.