Honorary Degrees
1918 - Present

Albert Cook Outler 
Doctor of Humane Letters  1986
Status: conferred

Albert Cook Outler, Professor of Theology emeritus, leading contemporary theologian and therefore committed humanist, is also one of the architects who envisioned and developed the basic design of Southern Methodist University today.

Resigning the prestigious Timothy Dwight Chair in Theology at Yale University, this strategy-minded Southerner helped SMU create in the heartland of southwestern United Methodism a theology school of national rank and reputation. And because theology is not an end in itself, because "faith seeks understanding," because a theology school needs a university, he also dreamed, prodded, designed, wrote and spoke SMU toward a vision of humane scholarship and teaching as the center of its academic mission. As guiding spirit of the University's Master Plan Commission in 1962-63; as author of its remarkable statement on "The Idea of SMU as a University"; as inventor of SMU's University College whose successor, the "Common Educational Experience," continues to this day; as an instigator of SMU's first tier of doctoral programs; as adviser to presidents and as academic conscience in crisis and celebration, Albert Cook Outler stands as a faculty leader of decisive influence in SMU's third quarter century.

Yet that academic service was done alongside a widely influential career as scholar, teacher, theologian and churchman, a career whose distinction and scope are beyond our recounting on this occasion, except to note that his scholarly bibliography of nearly three hundred titles includes well over a dozen books of permanent value, including his recent critical editing of the first four volumes of John Wesley's works; and that his long and varied denominational and ecumenical leadership, especially at the Second Vatican Council, has established him as an authoritative denominational and ecumenical voice both here and abroad.

Today, however, Southern Methodist University is proud to remember his service as educator of the human spirit, and to honor both him and itself in conferring upon Albert Cook Outler the peculiarly appropriate degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.