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2019 Chron15 Icon: Kate Bowler

With an influential theology book, a husband and a 2-year-old child at home, Kate Bowler—associate professor of the history of North American Christianity at Duke Divinity School—was on a terrific trajectory until she was diagnosed with a rare cancer at age 35 and told that she likely had less than two years to live.

Although most people would cry and scream and question the world, Bowler instead laughed at the absurdity of it all. And, ever since, she has offered profound insights about the intersections of faith, suffering, hope, resilience and joy. She wrote a memorable op-ed in The New York Times in 2016 about her unexpected diagnosis with cancer and also penned her memoir "Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved" in 2018. Despite the fatal diagnosis and a newfound yet fragile hope for her future, Bowler has been a powerful example of living faith for many here at Duke and–through her best-selling memoir and her popular podcasts–around the world.

Bowler has become an iconic figure at Duke because she embraces so many things we think are oppositional: suffering and hope, tragedy and comedy, tears and laughter and compassion for the afflicted. Kate is a brilliant scholar, an accessible writer and a great friend who is wise, funny and, most importantly, profoundly human.

L. Gregory Jones is the dean of the Divinity School.

Editor's note: This profile is part of our annual initiative called The Chron15. We are highlighting 15 people and groups who are defining what it means to be at Duke this year. Read about the project and more of our selections. 


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