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History and Purpose

Founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller, the University of Chicago is a private, coeducational institution located on the South Side of Chicago. Under the leadership of its first president, William Rainey Harper, the University introduced innovations that are now considered commonplace in American colleges and universities: the four-quarter system, extension courses and programs in the liberal arts for adults, the junior college concept, equal opportunities for women in education, and an emphasis on broad humanistic studies for undergraduates. Throughout its history, the University has sought to maintain an atmosphere of free, independent inquiry that is responsive to the needs of communities outside the University itself. Today, the University includes six graduate professional schools (Business, Divinity, Law, Medicine, Public Policy, and Social Service Administration), four graduate divisions (Biological Sciences, Humanities, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences), the undergraduate College, and the Graham School of General Studies.

Read more about the history of The University of Chicago. 

William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago, was also a distinguished Semiticist and a member of the Baptist clergy. He believed that the academic study of religion should be a central endeavor of a great research university, to prepare scholars for careers in teaching and research, and ministers for service to the church. These commitments led him to bring the Morgan Park Seminary of the Baptist Theological Union to Hyde Park, making the Divinity School the first professional school at the University of Chicago.

The  Divinity School continues to pursue Harper's vision of an institution devoted to systematic research and inquiry into the manifold dimensions of religion, seeking to serve both those preparing for careers in teaching and research and those preparing for careers in religious leadership.  For decades The Divinity School has been the single institutional educator of faculty members for theological seminaries, departments of theology, and programs in religious studies across American higher education. At the same time, the School is privileged to number among its alumni a long and distinguished list of ministers, and continues this tradition today through a Master of Divinity (MDiv) curriculum that prepares religious leaders for a life of service to the public and their religious traditions.