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Rev. Scotty McLennan, dean for religious life at Stanford since 2000, to retire next summer

McLennan is credited with expanding opportunities for multifaith exploration and for actively providing spiritual and ethical guidance to the entire community. Under his leadership, new observance spaces and programs have been created to support deeper reflection and engagement on campus.

L.A. Cicero Scotty McLennan speaking at podium

As dean for religious life, Rev. Scotty McLennan ministers to the nondenominational congregation at Memorial Church.

The Rev. Scotty McLennan, dean for religious life at Stanford, has announced that he plans to retire in summer 2014 from his post. Since his arrival in 2000, he has provided spiritual, religious and ethical leadership for the university community and served as minister of Memorial Church. After a sabbatical, he intends to return to campus to teach.

"As dean for religious life at Stanford, Scotty has provided counsel and guidance for the entire community – students, staff, faculty and members of the greater community. He has served as an advocate for everyone, not only those actively engaged in their faiths," said Stanford President John Hennessy. "Scotty has challenged us to think differently, to question how the work we do might serve a greater purpose. We are deeply grateful to him for his service and his leadership – and delighted our students will have the continued benefit of his teaching."

"As one of Stanford's spiritual leaders for more than a decade, Scotty has dramatically expanded opportunities for multifaith and cultural experiences on the Stanford campus," said Provost John Etchemendy. "Through his initiatives, the Office for Religious Life has been pivotal in preparing our students to become global citizens, deepening their understanding of the role of religion and faith in shaping world societies. We are pleased he will maintain a teaching presence at Stanford, and that future students will continue to benefit from his scholarship in the areas of morality and ethics."

McLennan ministers to the nondenominational congregation at Memorial Church, which has become a vibrant center for religious, spiritual and musical events. The Rathbun program, in honor of the late Stanford Law School Professor Harry Rathbun and his late wife, Emilia, has encouraged students to engage in self-reflection and moral inquiry and to explore "what leads to a meaningful life" through a variety of student activities and a series of lectures. Under McLennan's stewardship,  "Harry's Last Lecture on a Meaningful Life" has featured such visiting fellows as the Dalai Lama, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund.

McLennan has also led the creation of new spaces to foster spiritual observance throughout the campus. The CIRCLE  (Center for Inter-Religious Community, Learning and Experiences) was established in 2007 on the third floor of the renovated Old Union, creating a vibrant new spiritual center and sanctuary for students of many faiths.  The open and inclusive CIRCLE houses many Stanford Associated Religions member groups and is used for worship, ritual, reflection and spiritual and intellectual growth.

"It's been a great honor to serve a nonsectarian university that from the very beginning has placed the moral and spiritual at the center of higher education," said McLennan. "I am also grateful to have had such a dedicated and capable staff to work with as well as professional colleagues as talented as Senior Associate Dean Patricia Karlin-Neumann, Associate Dean Joanne Sanders, and University Organist and Memorial Church Choir Director Robert Huw Morgan."

McLennnan looks forward to the expected completion in June of the Windhover Contemplative Center, another new space for contemplation and reflection currently under construction along Santa Teresa Street near the New Guinea Sculpture Garden. The center will feature the paintings of Nathan Oliveira and will be a place the campus community can visit to take a break from the intensity of the day.

"I've been excited to partner with Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman, devoted donors, extraordinary architects, a skilled project manager and many others to help conceive a facility to serve all students, faculty and staff, including those who would call themselves neither religious nor spiritual, to relieve stress and promote well-being," McLennan said.

McLennan plans a yearlong sabbatical of personal renewal and intellectual exploration. Then, in the fall of 2015, he hopes to continue and expand his role as lecturer in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where for many years he has taught a course titled, "The Business World: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry Through Literature."

Provost Etchemendy will appoint a search committee this fall to begin the process of finding McLennan's successor.

McLennan's first duties as dean were in fall 2000, when he gave the invocation at the Opening Convocation and then again at the inauguration of President John Hennessy.

Since that time, he has taught hundreds of Stanford students in undergraduate courses through the Ethics in Society Program ("Ethics and the Professions" and "The Meaning of Life") and through Urban Studies with the associate deans for religious life ("Spirituality and Nonviolent Social Transformation"), and in the Masters of Liberal Arts ("The Meaning of Life") and Continuing Studies programs ("Exploring Liberal Christianity"), as well as at the Graduate School of Business.

Last May, McLennan became a faculty fellow of the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. His primary research interests are in the interface of religion, ethics and the professions.

McLennan received a B.A. from Yale University in 1970 as a scholar of the house working in the area of computers and the mind. He received M.Div. and J.D. degrees from Harvard Divinity and Law Schools in 1975. In 1975, he was ordained to the ministry (Unitarian Universalist) and admitted to the Massachusetts Bar as an attorney. From 1975 to 1984, McLennan practiced church-sponsored poverty law in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. He was the university chaplain at Tufts University from 1984-2000 and senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School for 10 of those years.

He is the author of two books:  Finding Your Religion:  When the Faith You Grew Up With Has Lost Its Meaning (HarperSanFrancisco, 1999) and Jesus Was a Liberal:  Reclaiming Christianity for All (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). He co-authored, with Laura Nash of Harvard Business School, Church on Sunday, Work on Monday:  The Challenge of Fusing Christian Values With Business Life (Jossey-Bass, 2001).