NYTS Mourns Former Dean Rev. Gayraud Wilmore
New York – The Rev. Gayraud Wilmore, former Dean of Divinity at New York Theological Seminary (1983-1987) passed away on April 18, 2020 at the age of 98. The NYTS family is grieved by this news and joins with his family and friends in celebrating and honoring his life.
Rev. Wilmore was a Presbyterian pastor, a renowned scholar of African American church history, a key figure in the civil rights movement, and a devoted colleague and professor at New York Theological Seminary.
Dr. Keith Russell, former president of NYTS, said “Dr. Wilmore left a prestigious appointment at Colgate Rochester Divinity School to help us establish the Master of Divinity program. Under his leadership we established a non-residential M.Div program that served the needs of our urban churches.” Dr. Wilmore’s imprint is visible throughout NYTS today. The Master of Divinity program is our largest degree program and one that has impacted urban churches around the world. “Dr. Wilmore gave visionary leadership and provided us the benefit of his reputation as a highly respected scholar and theological leader.”
According to Dr. Eleanor Moody-Shepherd, NYTS Professor of Women’s Ministry Emeritus, he was a man deeply devoted to his family. “His role as a husband made a deeper impression on me than his academic and church contributions. I spent many hours with him over more than thirty years and overserved his care and concern for his wife who was in a wheelchair. I saw the measure of a great man in action.”
Rev. Dr. William Weisenbach, current member of the NYTS Board of Trustees, became the Vice President of Academic Affairs the same year Dr. Wilmore joined NYTS as Dean to launch the Master of Divinity program in 1982. He remembers Dr. Wilmore as a deep thinker and scholar who made a lasting impression of the curriculum, the students and all those who worked with him. “He was a gentleman in every sense of the word with a razor sharp mind and a gentle spirit. I was blessed to call him my friend.”
Perhaps the NYTS faculty who was closest to Dr. Wilmore was the Rev. Dr. Alfred Johnson, the Director of the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion. “To students and professors and all he met he was the preeminent scholar who sat high in the academic status, but was amazingly low, unswerving in his passion for racial and social justice, yet gentle and unassuming in his relationships with all who engaged with him.”
Dr. Russell speaks for everyone at NYTS when he says that “We were blessed to have his leadership, insight, and inspiration.”