$3 million gift in honor of H. Boone Porter will support study of theology, environmental stewardship

December 9, 2010

A gift pledge of $3 million -- in honor of the Rev. H. Boone Porter, a Yale graduate and Episcopal priest, and his wife, Violet M. Porter -- will fund a joint senior faculty appointment between Yale Divinity School, Berkeley Divinity School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The endowment will "enhance the interdisciplinary study of theology and the environment that has taken hold at Yale in recent years, culminating in the establishment of a joint degree program," according to a Yale press release.

The gift, finalized on Nov. 29, comes from the children of the Porters through the H Boone & Violet M Porter Charitable Foundation. Boone Porter, who died in 1999, was a scholar, writer, and environmentalist, "and both he and his wife had a particularly significant impact on the life of the Episcopal Church," the release said. The gift "will ensure that the collaboration that has developed in recent years between Yale Divinity School and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies will continue and expand into an even more fruitful partnership," Harold Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School, said in the release. "The environmental challenges that we face involve not only scientific and technical issues, but also issues of fundamental values and moral commitments." Berkeley Divinity School is an Episcopal Church-affiliate seminary that has been in collaboration with Yale Divinity School since 1971. "For Berkeley, this gift is not only an important contribution to addressing the urgent ecological issues of our day," said the Very Rev. Joseph Britton, dean of Berkeley, "it also places the seminary in the forefront of theological education in the Episcopal Church, vividly demonstrating the larger horizon in a university divinity school." Stephen Blackmer, a Berkeley seminarian from the Diocese of New Hamsphire, worked closely with the schools and the donors to make the pledge happen. "In a world where environmental changes and threats are becoming ever more prominent with climate change and its effects on poor and marginalized people ... it's essential that leaders in the church coming out of seminary have the opportunity to learn how to speak, preach, teach, [and] serve as shepherds with real knowledge of both ecological and theological dimensions," Blackmer, who worked as a forester for 30 years, told ENS. According to the Yale release, Peter Crane, dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, said, "We are delighted and humbled by the commitment of the Porter family and truly excited by the new opportunity to further develop the already-strong connections between religion and environmental stewardship at Yale." In 1954, Boone Porter began a teaching career at Nashotah House, another Episcopal Church-affiliated seminary near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and later was appointed as professor of liturgy at the General Theological Seminary in New York. Later in his career, Porter was editor of the weekly magazine The Living Church. He also had a major role in the development of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. He graduated from Yale College in 1945, and earned degrees from Berkeley in 1950 and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1996. In 1997, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berkeley.