Meet the Dean

The Rev. Bernard L. Richardson, Ph.D.

Dean of the Chapel

Image of Rev. Bernard Richardson, PH.D smiling at camera. He presents as an elder African-American man with glasses


As the fourth Dean of the historic Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, the Reverend Dr. Bernard L. Richardson is the executive officer for religious affairs at Howard University. Dr. Richardson is perhaps most widely recognized by the University community and leaders across the nation for his prolific prayers and insightful spiritual guidance.

Dr. Richardson has set an example in affirming religious diversity and freedom both on campus and throughout the community. He has the distinction of being the first to officially establish a Muslim chaplaincy at a U.S. university. Dr. Richardson has built upon the Chapel’s social justice legacy by opening the Chapel to the interfaith leaders who birthed the Million Man March, welcoming anti-apartheid and religious leader Archbishop Desmund Tutu as a Chapel speaker, and hosting President William Clinton and the World AIDS Conference.

Under his leadership, Rankin Chapel is known as one of the most effective chapels in the nation. The Sunday service, a center of thought and leadership, reaches a worldwide broadcast audience of over one million. Generations of students cite the life-changing impact of Chapel initiatives instituted by Dr. Richardson including: Chapel Assistants, Alternative Spring Break (ASB), HU Day of Service, the Interfaith Advisory Board, Justice for Juveniles Prison Ministry and the University’s first Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. After securing $2.5 million in funding from the Lilly Endowment establishing the Spiritual and Ethical Dimensions of Leadership initiative (SEDL), he launched a series of Learning Labs to produce spiritually sensitive leaders. He led the worship service for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington honoring those who organized and marched. He twice hosted President Barak Obama’s White House Interfaith Community Service Campus Challenge with the first international delegations in 2015.

Dr. Richardson has advanced the connection between scholarship, spirituality and service. His impact was marked in 2015 by the White House with a place on the Higher Education Interfaith Community Service Honor Roll. This honor was largely due to the Alternative Spring Break program that Dr. Richardson developed in 1994. In 2006, he persuaded FEMA to grant permission for Howard students to serve following Hurricane Katrina, opening the door for other volunteers and leading to the recognition of the ASB students by ABC’s World News Tonight as their Persons of the Week. ASB has become Howard University’s flagship service-learning program that, through fundraising, is offered at no cost to students.

Certified as a Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and Koru Mindfulness Teacher, Dr. Richardson launched the Wellness Collective and the Howard University Mindfulness Training Initiative that are providing transformative support to the university community.

Dr. Richardson, a tenured Associate Professor at the Howard University School of Divinity, has made scholarly contributions in the areas of pastoral care and counseling. Among his distinguished lectures are the Parks/King Lecture at Yale University and the Indaba Revitalizing Social Work in South Africa. Dr. Richardson is an ordained minister in the A.M.E. Zion Church who has previously served as a pastor, counseling specialist, mental health therapist and faculty member at several institutions.

Dr. Richardson has earned a B.S., Sociology, Howard University; M. Div., Yale University Divinity School; M.A. and Ph.D., Michigan State University, and an honorary Doctor of Divinity, Carthage College.

His numerous honors include: The 2022 President’s Lifetime Achievement Award from US President Joseph R. Biden for the highest honor of community service; the Howard University 2018 Alumni Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement in the field of Religion; Washington, DC Hall of Fame; MLK Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College; DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities; Phi Delta Kappa Honor Society; National Institute of Mental Health Fellowship; Crystal Apple Outstanding Educator Award, Michigan State University; Special Citation of Achievement as orator for the 139th Opening Convocation of Howard University; Benjamin E. Mays Fellowship for Ministry; Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.