Jane Shaw: Wisdom Dispenser

A conversation with Anglican priest and Dean of Religious Life and professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University

by Lisa Van Dusen / Palo Alto Weekly

The Very Reverend Dr. Jane Shaw talks with Lisa Van Dusen about having arrived on the Stanford campus this fall as the Dean for Religious Life and Professor of Religious Studies after a four-year stint as Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. She just might surprise you.

At age 8, Shaw was booted out of the Brownies after three weeks for being "disruptive" -- having suggested to her leader that the troop might do something more interesting than cutting out paper shapes. You could say she's a nonconformist. An activist in support of the ordination of women, champion within the LGBT community and a board member of Human Rights Watch, Shaw describes herself as "not so churchy" and interested in "practical religion."

Born and raised in Norwich, England, near a cathedral, Shaw got the idea of combining academia with religious life early on. Educated at Oxford (BA and MA), where she later taught, Shaw proudly wears her PhD hood from UC Berkeley and earned a MDiv from Harvard. Her resume is long and distinguished, featuring a lengthy list of degrees and honorary degrees.

Shaw says she spends much of her time in the 1920s and '30s, immersed in books of that time, but is "trapped in the 21st century." Her round glasses are a nod to the era in which she feels most at home.

At a university where 40 percent of undergraduate students major in computer science, Shaw sees her role as developing "whole people" and will be teaching an upcoming course on empathy.

In the middle of Silicon Valley from her office by "the Round Room" in Memorial Church, she dispenses wisdom to students and others, including the notion of weaving some quiet, reflective time into each day - maybe even device - free.

Host/interview, Lisa Van Dusen 

Video, Veronica Weber

Production manager, Taylor Shoolery

This conversation took place on December 2, 2014.