The origins of Harvard Divinity School and the study of theology at Harvard can be traced back to the very beginning of Harvard College. From 1636, when it was established by vote of the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, Harvard has had a commitment to educating religious leaders.
Because of this desire of the founders to perpetuate a learned ministry, theology continued to hold a position of importance as Harvard grew. For example, the first professorship in the College and the oldest in the country was the Hollis Professorship of Divinity, endowed in 1721. In 1811, the first graduate program for ministerial candidates was organized. In 1816, the Divinity School itself was established, the first non-sectarian theological school in the country, to ensure that "every encouragement be given to the serious, impartial, and unbiased investigation of Christian truth."
Today the concerns of the founders of Harvard remain at the center of the School. Its purpose is to educate women and men for service as leaders in religious life and thought, as ministers and teachers, and in other professions enriched by theological study. The setting is an academic community characterized by continuing commitment to serious and impartial investigation of truth. Here, students and faculty representing over 55 denominations and strikingly diverse ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds engage in rigorous historical and comparative study of Christian traditions in the context of other world religions and value systems.