Dan Ott begins new role as dean of EMU’s School of Theology, Humanities, and Performing Arts

Dr. Dan Ott, the new dean of Eastern Mennonite University’s School of Theology, Humanities, and Performing Arts, sees a remarkable confluence in his new appointment.

A humanities professor, an operatic tenor, and an ordained Presbyterian minister and theologian, Ott says the new role “brings together my deepest passions and my life’s work.”

“EMU’s commitments to holistic education and the work of peace and justice could not align better with my own sense of vocation,” he added.

Ott started his new role this summer, taking over from retiring dean Sue Cockley. He comes to EMU from Monmouth College in Illinois, where he was associate dean for academic initiatives and professor of religious studies. He chaired Monmouth’s Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies and coordinated the peace, ethics and social justice program. 

Provost Fred Kniss said that Ott earned the “strong and unanimous support” of the search committee and those campus community members who participated in his visit in spring 2022. “The committee and others were impressed by his strong training, experience, and ongoing interest in all three areas of the PATH School. He also has demonstrated commitment and positive action in supporting EMU’s core values of discipleship, community, service, and peace. He brings proven experience in advancing our strategic goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Ott will also serve as dean of  Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

Dan’s leadership comes at an important moment for Eastern Mennonite Seminary,” said The Rev. Dr. Sarah Bixler, associate dean of the seminary. “To have a dean who is a peace theologian and scholar, and well-versed in ecumenical contexts, positions the seminary to deepen our Anabaptist Mennonite values while also expanding our reach. We’re living in a societal moment when the theology and practice of peace and justice are sorely needed. Dan brings the vision and experience to keep our seminary grounded in this core part of our identity, and to help us reach new audiences who are longing for this kind of education.” 

Ott holds a PhD from Claremont Graduate University in the philosophy of religion and theology, a Masters of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Music from West Virginia University. He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Ott has more than 17 years of experience in teaching, scholarship, and administration. His administrative work includes curriculum and program development, grant writing and directing, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. At Monmouth, he supervised the university’s general education curriculum, and recently led its review and revision funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. He also oversaw assessment and review of all academic programs across the university.

Ott’s scholarship is in the areas of religious thought in the United States, philosophies of peace and nonviolence, and Christian liberal theologies, especially process and pragmatic theologies.

He is co-author with Hannah Schell of Christian Thought in America: A Brief History (Fortress Press, 2015). Publication credits include Theology Today, Political Theology, and the American Journal of Theology and Philosophy