On Saturday, October 26th, the Trustees of the New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) hosted the inauguration of Reverend Dr. LaKeesha Walrond at Riverside Church in New York. Among those in attendance were New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, Rev. Al Sharpton (NAN), Senator Benjamin, Hazel Dukes (NAACP), and other dignitaries, who joined the Trustees for this historical moment to inaugurate Dr. Walrond as the first female and first African-American female President in the Seminary’s 119-year history.
The three-day inauguration festivities were held from Thursday, October 24th until Saturday, October 26th, and kicked off Thursday with the George W. Webber lecture series featuring Dr. Alice W. Hunt, Executive Director of the American Academy of Religion. On Friday, attendees were invited to an evening of networking and fellowship at “NYTS Meets First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC),” hosted by FCBC.
As the 12th President, Dr. Walrond brings to the institution more than two decades of ministry and faith leadership. She intends to promote Seminary growth through fresh and creative initiatives and expanding the curriculum of urban ministry. Dr. Walrond, served as the Executive Pastor and Chief of Staff of First Corinthian Baptist Church, home to one of the largest urban ministries in New York City for the past 13 years.
Since its inception nearly 120 years ago, NYTS has remained a distinguished and progressive leader in the field. The institution is renowned for its forward-thinking initiatives, from preparing men and women for leadership roles in faith-based ministries across the country to helping incarcerated men achieve higher education degrees in Professional Studies. NYTS has transformed the lives of over 400 graduates to date, with a dozen men graduating from Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York this past June. Under Dr. Walrond’s leadership, NYTS will continue to push for diverse and groundbreaking programs that reflect the institution’s mission while maintaining its historic denominational and cultural traditions.
“Being entrusted to continue the legacy of NYTS is truly a humbling experience and as the first female president and the first African-American female president, it’s not lost upon me that this moment in history must be fueled by a collective purpose within the faith community,” said Rev. Dr. Lakeesha Walrond. “I am elated to lead the seminary into a new innovative era that will reflect the mission of the institution and continue to raise the bar for generations to come. This Inauguration is more than just a celebration. It’s about empowering the entire institution – students, faculty, staff, and board members. As we move forward together collectively, the success of NYTS will be triumphant.”
Dr. Walrond earned her Ph.D. 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. Her commitment to ministry and education led her back to school post-doctorate to earn a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary here in New York City. She received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.