For the first time, a Black woman will lead the New York Theological Seminary.
Reverend Dr. LaKeesha Walrond has been selected as the seminary’s new president, bringing with her more than two decades of leadership in academia and ministry.
Her official start date is June 3.
Walrond said her appointment has shown other women that there are some “first” opportunities still to be had.
“As I assume the Presidency, I think about becoming the first female and the first African American female, and the great responsibility that accompanies this historic moment,” Walrond said in a prepared statement.
The New York Theological Seminary is a 119-year-old college that prepares women and men for faith-based ministries. Walrond's appointment makes her its 12th president, the first woman and the first Black woman to serve in the top role.
“The more I learn about the history of New York Theological Seminary, the more I appreciate its vision — not just for the future of theological education, but for societal matters including education for incarcerated people," she said.
Walrond served as the executive pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York where she focused on administration, ministry development and staff supervision for more than a decade. She has held senior leadership roles at Zion Temple Church in North Carolina and Lakewood Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina.
In 2005, Dr. Walrond earned a doctoral degree in Special Education and Literacy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also holds a Master of School Administration with a focus in Educational Leadership and a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus in Learning Disabilities from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has earned a doctorate of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Members of the search committee said they found Walrond to be a visionary with a solid faith foundation.The faith community expressed confidence in not only her leadership skills but also her preaching ability.
“NYTS is truly blessed to have found such a dynamic and well-prepared leader. Rev. Dr. LaKeesha Walrond combines extraordinary vision and understanding of the importance of seminary education to ministry with solid, successful administrative experience directing major organizations. I have no doubt that she will lead the school to new heights and great success,” said Jeffrey C. Slade, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and vice chair of the Board of Trustees of the New York Theological Seminary.
“I have watched Dr. Walrond evolve in her ministry for decades and she is a tireless faith leader with a devotion to uplifting communities through theology and education, said Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, senior pastor of the historic Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon and chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches. She was the first female to preach at her hometown church in Texas and now she’s the first female to lead the New York Theological Seminary. We in the faith community are inspired by her unparalleled devotion to ministry and advocacy.”
Walrond has been awarded by many organizations and has received the NAACP Leadership Award and received “A Woman Who Worships Award” at McDonald’s GospelFest. She is the author of two books; “My Body Is Special,” and the e-book “Stronger Than Your Worst Pain: A Guide to Activating Your Inner Power.” Walrond, married to Michael A. Walrond Jr., are parents of Michael III and Jasmyn.