Terry Tempest Williams to Join HDS as Writer-in-Residence

April 20, 2017
Terry Tempest Williams
Author Terry Tempest Williams / Photo: Brooke Williams

Writer and activist Terry Tempest Williams will join HDS as a writer-in-residence for the 2017-18 academic year.

During her year at HDS, Williams will spend time contemplating and writing about the spiritual implications of climate change and will lead a seminar with HDS students. A naturalist and advocate for freedom of speech, she has shown how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. She has testified before the U.S. Congress on women’s health issues, been a guest at the White House, and worked as "a barefoot artist" in Rwanda.

"The world is changing dramatically, both ecologically as well as politically," Williams said. "But I believe our greatest transformation as a species will be spiritual. To be able to study and learn from those at the Divinity School will be a great privilege. I am looking forward to be in the physical landscape where Emerson stood and Thoreau walked. I am humbled by the faith and support of those at the Harvard Divinity School who made this appointment possible."

Williams is the author of numerous books, including the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place. Her most recent book is The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks, which was published in June 2016 to coincide with and honor the centennial of the National Park Service. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Orion Magazine, and numerous anthologies worldwide as a crucial voice for ecological consciousness and social change.

In 2006, Williams received the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society, their highest honor given to an American citizen. She also received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western American Literature Association and the Wallace Stegner Award given by The Center for the American West. “Environmental humanities creates a bridge between the internal and external landscape of stories,” Williams told the Harvard Gazette in the fall of 2016. “Writing becomes a process of this integration and exploration, both personal and political. I love that Harvard is thinking about this bridge and how academic rigor in the classroom and engagement in the world can be brought into a creative alliance. Our students are hungry for this.”  

“No one has written more beautifully about the importance of environmental sustainability and spiritual advocacy in an era of climate change than Terry Tempest Williams," said Dean David Hempton. "I am delighted that she is coming to Harvard Divinity School as our writer-in residence to reflect deeply on these issues and to interact with our faculty and students, wider Harvard, and the wider world.”

Williams' appointment at HDS is supported by the Compton Foundation and the Susan Shallcross Swartz Fund.

Media inquiries may be directed to Michael Naughton, media relations coordinator at HDS.