Marsha Foster Boyd 

Ombudsperson Candidate


Dr. Marsha Foster Boyd is President Emerita of Ecumenical Theological Seminary. She achieved this milestone when she retired in 2013, after 7 years of distinguished service. Most recently she served as Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs & Academic Dean at Luther Seminary. Prior to her Presidency, she was Director of Accreditation and Leadership Education at ATS in Pittsburgh; Associate Professor of Pastoral Care & Counseling at United Theological Seminary in Dayton. She was the first African American to hold all of those positions. She was also the first woman to serve as Academic Dean at Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio. In addition to her illustrious career in theological education leadership, she is also a retired minister in the AME Church after 40 years of service.

Dr. Boyd is Founder and Chief Catalyst of Catalyst Connections Global LLC, a consulting and coaching firm, specializing in higher education consulting, providing personal coaching for senior administrators and leadership teams and professional facilitation for meetings, conferences and retreats. She is a member of several boards: Pacific School of Religion, Freedom Center for Social Justice, In Trust Center for Theological Schools, and the Marcus Foster Education Institute, named for her late father.

Candidate Statement

I have spent the past 30 years in theological education, and retired as a seminary president in 2013. I am a pastoral theologian and counselor, having worked as a professor, seminary dean, ATS accreditation officer and leadership development practitioner and facilitator. Following my retirement I established a consulting and coaching business for seminaries and seminary executives. Most recently I served as an interim academic dean. All of these experiences have prepared me well for the position of Ombudsperson with AAR.

As a professor of pastoral care and counseling, I taught the skills necessary for effective, supportive, compassionate listening, intervention and care, all necessary for effective interpersonal and professional interaction. As a pastoral counselor, I provided therapeutic support for students who were having difficulty navigating the academic environment.

As an academic dean, I was an arbiter between students and professors and professors and administrators - a key role, and excellent preparation for serving as an ombudsperson. Concomitant in that role, I was also responsible for preparing written, detailed reports for the board of trustees and the administration concerning the academic department, preparing evaluations of personnel under my supervision including faculty. I was also charged with creating and implementing a framework for addressing significant breakdowns in communication between the board and faculty and faculty and administration.

As Director of Accreditation and Leadership Education at ATS, I became skilled at writing detailed reports, responding to seminary presidents regarding accreditation decisions, providing information for hearings related to accrediting decisions, and answering inquiries concerning accreditation decisions at ATS Commission on Accrediting meetings. I also selected persons who served on accrediting committees and advised them on the appropriate interpretation of ATS Standards of Accreditation.

The other half of my responsibilities at ATS centered around leadership development. I was responsible for the creation and program development of the Chief Academic Officers Society (CAOS) and the Committee on Race & Ethnicity (CORE), and for the design and implementation of all Women in Leadership programming.

As a seminary president I experienced giving counsel to faculty members who were having difficulties with student complaints, faculty who filed complaints concerning executive leadership decisions, and trustee board inquiries as to executive decision making. Personnel matters ranked high on the list of my responsibilities, and effective information gathering, providing counsel to staff and overseeing effective human resource management were essential skills of that position.

Given my 30 years of experience in a wide variety of crucial leadership roles in theological education, I am highly qualified to serve as an Ombudsperson with AAR.  Objectivity and neutrality, dispute resolution and equity, effective coaching and supervision, overseeing and tracking decision-making and design implementation, and a genuine care and concern for human thriving and flourishing have been hallmarks of my career. I look forward to bringing all of these gifts and skills to this important role.