Our beloved Professor and Dean of the Extension Center, Dr. Lonnie McLeod, Jr., died this past Sunday, October 25, 2009. Always the pastor thinking of and preparing to guide his congregation, he suffered a major heart attack in the morning while preparing for church service. Dr. McLeod joined the UTS faculty in 2001 after having taught courses for ten years at New York Theological Seminary and having led its Sing Sing Masters Program in Ossining. His courses included those areas for which he was well-known and certainly well-prepared: New Testament, Old Testament, Homiletics and Contemporary Urban Ministries. Dr. McLeod's theological and research interests focused especially on issues of Social Justice Ministry, or as he liked to say, "Soup, soap and salvation."
Anyone who knew Dr. McLeod, knew that he was a hard man to pin down; he was always either teaching a course, giving a sermon in any one of a hundred churches, or conducting a workshop or seminar of some type somewhere on the planet. His interests and concerns were varied. One role for which he was probably best known was as Board President for the Exodus Transitional Community - a re-entry program that had been featured in former President George W. Bush's Presidential State of the Union Address in 2004 as a best practice model that should be replicated nationally. This was a topic near and dear to Dr. McLeod's heart. He was also the co-founder of the Exodus Partnership, a community program that had raised more than ten million dollars and constructed a one hundred unit dwelling for young adults who were aging out of New York's foster care system while under his wing. He was also the Co-Founder of Youth Turn, a "youth-at-risk" and gang intervention program sponsored by New York Theological Seminary and initially funded by the Office of Children and Family Services of New York State and the Ford Foundation.
He was also the pastor of the Church of the Living Hope at 161 East 104th Street in New York where he preached passionate and moving sermons that reached into the depths of one's soul. This past year he had just celebrated his 13th anniversary as pastor at the church. He had also served as the Moderator of the Metro-Suffolk, NY Area for the United Church of Christ.
Another endeavor that was near and dear to his heart was his involvement in the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), an ecumenical and interfaith association of clergy and religious leaders. For the past few years he served on the executive board of ACLC, seeking to help guide this young organization and to inspire pastors of all denominations and faiths to come together at this critical time in history in order to serve God's people more fully and effectively as one body.
Dr. McLeod graduated (cum laude) from Marist College with a B. A. in Political Science. He received a Masters of Professional Studies, a Masters of Divinity (Valedictorian), and a Doctorate in Ministry from New York Theological Seminary. He was Assistant Professor of Ministry at UTS and later served as the Dean of the Extension Center. He was an enthusiastic professor, passionate about guiding our students and ensuring that they had all the knowledge and tools necessary to fulfill their own calling from God. He introduced innovative courses while at UTS such as Spirit-Filled Preaching, Ministry and Criminal Justice, The Challenges of Ministry in a Postmodern World, and Christian Economics. Dr. McLeod also taught in the Doctor of Ministry Program sharing with students his expertise in Transformational Leadership in a Postmodern World.
Besides his numerous speaking engagements, Dr. McLeod contributed articles and publications on current issues for print and web-based publications. Some of the titles of his articles included: "Coming Out of Prison," "Is President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative for Real," "Successful Practices: The World at a Turning Point," "The Cross Reconsidered," and "Meet Me at the Empty Tomb."
The last several years, however, Dr. McLeod took on another pressing issue with the gusto and vitality that he gave to re-entry programs. That was the healthy marriage initiative and in particular, the challenges and needs of the African-American family. He was constantly traveling and speaking up at conferences in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Georgia, New Jersey and of course New York - just to mention a few. He blazed a trail across the United States, speaking to churches, civic organizations, educational institutions and whoever would invite him hoping to encourage grassroots, governmental and social programs and initiatives that would strengthen the family. He believed firmly in the importance of family and was not shy when it came to speaking out whenever and wherever he could on this issue.
Of course, Dr. McLeod walked the talk as they say. Probably the most important person in his life was his lovely wife Jackie. And over the last year, he would speak at length about his beautiful "grandbabies" - his daughter's twin son and daughter. You could see the spark of love and joy in his eyes when he was describing his latest adventure as a grandfather with them, whether it was a new word they had just learned or the new discovery that they had made while in his presence. Dr. McLeod brought all of that richness into the classroom and into his work.
It was not unusual to find students sitting in his office or around the blackboard long after class had finished listening to his stories and experiences. He was certainly a master storyteller and could move an audience to tears and laughter and back to tears again all within the space of an hour or less. Students and faculty alike were changed for the better because they had come into contact with Dr. McLeod - certainly a rare gift in today's world.
We are sure that Dr. McLeod will be equally busy in this new phase of his journey with God. In fact, he has probably preached his first sermon to the heavenly hosts already. Dr. McLeod was a beloved professor, a true friend, a consummate professional and a mighty warrior for God. Dr. Lonnie McLeod - you were loved and you will be missed.
Services for Dr. McLeod will take place this coming Saturday, October 31st at St. Mark's United Methodist Church located at 49-55 Edgecomb Avenue in Harlem (near 137th Street). Viewing will be 10:00am to 12:00pm and the funeral service will begin at 12:00 noon. A repast will follow the service.