David Toole became interim director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics in October 2021, bringing with him a long history at Duke—and a wealth of diverse experience. He first came to the university in 1988 for graduate school and earned his Ph.D. in theology and ethics in 1996. After a stint in his home state of Montana—where, among other things, he taught at the University of Montana (his alma mater) and ran a construction company—he returned to Duke in 2005 to serve as an administrator in Duke Divinity School.
In 2009, while serving as the Divinity School’s associate dean for strategic initiatives, Toole started working with Duke’s Global Health Institute and the Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation on two projects in East Africa, one focused on leadership and management training in the health sector, and one on training Christian leaders working on issues of reconciliation in the African Great Lakes region. The projects led Toole to nearly a decade of travel back and forth to communities in Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan. They also led him to pursue a master of public health degree at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and to undertake a research project on mission hospitals and their legacy in East Africa, with the working title: “Outposts of Hope: Theological Dispatches from the Front Lines of Poverty and War.”
In 2014, Toole joined the faculty as associate professor of the practice of theology, ethics, and global health—a joint appointment in the Divinity School, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and Global Health Institute. In that role, he has taught a variety of courses, including Global Health as an Ethical Enterprise; Ethics and the History of Humanitarianism; Challenges of Living an Ethical Life; Ethics and Environmental Policy; and Ethics and Native America. He has also directed the undergraduate program in global health. In addition to his teaching, Toole has served the Kenan Institute as director of various programs, including and the Ethics Certificate, the Religions in Public Life Initiative, the PLANET Project, and The Purpose Project at Duke, which he continues to direct.
Toole is the author of Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo: Theological Reflections on Nihilism, Tragedy, and Apocalypse, and is currently completing a manuscript titled What Are People For? Questions Concerning What It Means to Be Human. He has been married to his wife, Nancy, for more than thirty years and is the father of three grown boys.