An "exemplary Yalie" who filled many roles

Harry Adams "addressed the complexities of the world with quiet confidence and grace."

A pastor, a professor, chaplain, and a college master, Harry Baker Adams ’45W, ’51BDiv, touched the lives of students and colleagues. View full image

The Reverend Harry Baker Adams ’45W, ’51BDiv, who was university chaplain from 1986 to 1992 and master of Trumbull College from 1987 to 1997, died on January 22. His colleague Harry Attridge, Sterling Professor of Divinity and former dean of the Divinity School, offers this remembrance.

When my wife and I arrived at Yale some 24 years ago, one of our first encounters was with a veteran Yalie. Harry Adams had been at Yale for more than 50 years, interrupted by three years as an Army Air Corps pilot in World War II. After graduating from the college and from the Divinity School, he spent five years in active ministry, then returned to Yale for the rest of his career. By the time I met him, Harry had been chaplain of the university, master of Trumbull College for ten years and of Saybrook for one more. He had also served three times as acting director of the Institute of Sacred Music, supporting faculty and students in both music and divinity.

The remarkable thing about our first encounter was how little of this history of distinguished service was ever visible. Harry was not a man to boast; he instead focused on the newcomers. With his beloved wife, Manette, he offered us a warm welcome, embodying the principles he taught as the Bushnell Professor of Christian Nurture. He attended to people, and explored their interests and concerns, with wry wit about life in general and about Yale’s sometimes wondrous ways.

With the breadth of his experience, Harry took the long view about current controversies, which at that time included debate about the design of the Divinity School’s campus. Harry had weathered previous turmoil about the school’s future, and he remained a steadying influence in the final discussions about how to preserve it.

In the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Harry’s voice continued to call for the values and commitments to which he had given his life: to peace, to justice, to respect for the least among us, and at the same time to resilience in the face of violence, and determination to defend the values for which he once fought as a pilot. Harry knew the complexities of the world in which the members of the Yale community live. Throughout his life he addressed those complexities with quiet confidence and grace.

Harry Adams was in so many ways an exemplary Yalie, devoted to helping students and colleagues to live by the light and truth that he found in the Christian tradition, and that he freely shared with one and all. 


  • Ronald Degges, ‘77
    Ronald Degges, ‘77, 9:51pm April 24 2020 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Amen and amen!

  • Ronald Degges
    Ronald Degges, 10:41pm April 24 2020 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Harry was the best. He supported me during my years at YDS and all the days of my ministry with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He was exemplary in nurturing students and following them in their service to the church and world.

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