Community Leaders

African American contributions to the leadership of Austin Seminary and the greater church can be found in the work of these selected members of our Board of Trustees, administration, and Distinguished Alumni, among the many others who have touched the life of this school.

Board of Trustees


Marvin Griffin

Marvin Griffin (1923-2013) was a member of the Austin Seminary Board of Trustees, serving from 1993 to 2001. Griffin was also an Austin Seminary 1990 Doctor of Ministry graduate, adjunct instructor, recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in 2009, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Worship preacher at Austin Seminary in 1986, and the Commencement speaker in 1998. Known as an Austin community leader, Griffin served forty-two years as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Austin and founded the East Austin Economic Development Corporation. Often a door opener, he was the first African-American graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the first vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the first African American president of the Austin school board. Governor John Connally appointed Griffin to the Texas Southern University Board of Regents. He also served as a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

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James Lee

James Lee was an Austin Seminary Board of Trustees member from 2010 until his death on May 6, 2016. He held a degree in economics from The University of Texas at Austin and is a 2000 Master in Divinity graduate from Austin Seminary. Additionally, Lee was a staff member from 2000 to 2003 and served on the Austin Seminary Association Board from 2004 to 2007. At the time of his death, Lee was the pastor at New Covenant Presbyterian Fellowship as well as the Moderator of Mission Presbytery. The Distance Education Center in the future Mary and Robert J. Wright Learning and Information Center will be dedicated in his memory.

Current and former African American members of the Board of Trustees include:

  • Roland Carpenter (1984-1993)
  • Marvin Griffin (1993-2001)
  • Walter Harris (2006-2015; 2016-present)
  • Jeffrey Richard (2008-2017)
  • James Lee (2010-2016)
  • Rhashell D. Hunter (2013-2018)
  • Janice Bryant (2014-present)
  • Denise Pierce (2017-present)

Austin Seminary Association Distinguished Service Award winners


Valerie Bridgeman Davis

Dr. Valerie Bridgeman Davis is a 2018 Distinguished Service Award winner, the 2013 Austin Seminary Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Worship preacher and has been a member of the Austin Seminary Association Board of Directors. Dr. Davis is a 1990 Austin Seminary graduate with a Master in Divinity and has her Ph.D. from Baylor University. She has edited several publications including The Africana Worship Book and Those Preaching Women: A Multicultural Collection. Presently, she is the Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Homiletics and Hebrew Bible for the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

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Sharon Risher

Sharon Risher is a 2017 Distinguished Service Award winner and a 2007 Master in Divinity Austin Seminary graduate. She is a minister, author, and activist from Charlotte, North Carolina. After her mother became a victim of the 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, Risher resigned her position as a trauma chaplain in Dallas, Texas to become an activist against gun violence and racism. A memorial space next to the Shelton Chapel at Austin Seminary was dedicated to the memory of Ethel W. Lance, Risher's mother, in 2016. She has appeared on several high profile media outlets, provided testimony to judicial committees on the state and national levels, and has co-authored a book, For Such a Times as This: Hope and Forgiveness after the Charleston Massacre. She presently serves as an Associate Minister at New Emanuel Congregational United Church of Christ.

Distinguished Service Award African American honorees include:

  • 1976: Ellsworth “Pete” Wright (staff member)
  • 2009: Marvin Griffin (DMin 1990) 
  • 2013: Helen Locklear (MDiv 1989)
  • 2015: Cheryl Kirk Duggan (MDiv 1991)
  • 2017: James Lee (MDiv 2000) 
  • 2017: Sharon Risher (MDiv 2007)
  • 2018: Valerie Bridgeman (MDiv 1990)