New York Theological Seminary’s (NYTS) in Harlem has appointed Rev. Dr. LaKeesha Walrond as its new president, the first woman and the first African-American woman to hold this position in the institution’s 119-year-old history.
Walrond was the executive pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, N.Y., for over 10 years, and she served as a visiting speaker at the Heyman Center for Humanities at Columbia University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Spelman College, and Union Theological Seminary.
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In a press release from NYTS, Walrond said that she hopes her presidency can be “an example of what intelligence, discipline, and determination can bring.”
In addition to her teaching and pastoral experience, Walrond is the author of two books, including My Body Is Special (2017), a book that encourages children to take ownership of their bodies, equipping them with problem-solving tools to help them thwart unhealthy touching.
Commenting on her new position, Walrond said she is pleased “to have the opportunity to show all women that there are still many opportunities to be ‘the first.’”
To that end, she follows in the footsteps of Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, who became the first woman to hold the position of dean at Howard University’s School of Divinity in 2017, and Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, who became the first woman to be named president of Union Theological Seminary in 2008.
According to the 2017 American College President Survey conducted by the American Council on Education, 30 percent of college presidents are women, and only 5 percent of college presidents are women of color.
Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, a senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon and chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches, voiced his excitement over the trajectory of Walrond’s career: “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,” he said. “We in the faith community are inspired by her unparalleled devotion to ministry and advocacy.”