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Joseph Dancy Jr. – Norfolk State University (emeritus)

Dr. Joseph Dancy, Jr. is a theologian, gerontologist, and professor emeritus at Norfolk State University’s Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social Work, receiving his doctorate in Educational Gerontology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a Master of Divinity from the School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA, and a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has held appointments at the Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria, VA, and the University of Maryland in College Park. Additionally, he has completed the Intensive Bioethics Course at Georgetown University, and is the author of the book, The Black Elderly: A Guide for Practitioners. His research interests include spirituality and aging, end-of-life issues, caregiving, and grandparents raising grandchildren. He also serves as an Associate Minister at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC.  

Dr. Dancy is a recognized scholar and a devoted student of the works of the eminent theologian, Dr. Howard Thurman. As the original visionary and a member of the planning team for this conference, Dr. Dancy brings a deep understanding of, passion for, and desire to give voice to, the legacy and message of Howard Thurman. He first encountered Dr. Thurman as an undergraduate, when Thurman gave an invited lecture at Virginia Union University. Through that encounter, he found an intellectual and spiritual mentor who provided a framework to appreciate and communicate about love, prayer, suffering, commitment, and reconciliation. As an ambassador of Howard Thurman, Dr. Dancy has endeavored to bring the works of this great thinker to an audience beyond the seminary walls. He is married to Dr. M. Lorraine Wynn Dancy.    


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Karen Wright Marsh – Theological Horizons, at the University of Virginia

Karen Wright Marsh is executive director and cofounder of Theological Horizons, a university ministry since 1991 that has advanced theological scholarship at the intersection of faith, thought, and life. Karen directs daily programs, writes resources and curriculum, teaches weekly classes, mentors students, leads the staff, and speaks at retreats, churches, and campus ministries. She holds degrees in philosophy and linguistics from Wheaton College and the University of Virginia. She recently published, Vintage Saints and Sinners; 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith, in which Howard Thurman is featured. Karen lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband, Charles Marsh. 


Alton B. Pollard, III – Howard University

Alton B. Pollard, III, is Dean and Professor of Religion and Culture at Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC. He holds degrees from Fisk University (BA with honors in religion and philosophy and business management), Harvard University Divinity School (MDiv), and Duke University, Department of Religion (PhD). His previous faculty appointments include St. Olaf College, Wake Forest University, Emory University, where he served as Director of Black Church Studies at Candler School of Theology and Chair of American Religious Cultures in the Graduate Division of Religion (PhD program), and various visiting lectureships throughout the United States and Africa.  

Dr. Pollard has published widely in the areas of religion and culture. He is editor of The Black Church Studies Reader with Carol B. Duncan; author of Mysticism and Social Change; Introduction and new edition of W.E.B. DuBois, The Negro Church; Helpers for a Healing Community: A Pastoral Care Manual for HIV/AIDS in Africa; editor of How Long This Road; consulting editor for the multi-volume Papers of Howard Thurman; and former associate editor of the journal Black Sacred Music. He is Principal Investigator for the Lilly-funded research project, "Equipping the Saints: Promising Practices in Black Congregational Life." An ordained Baptist minister, Dr. Pollard has served congregations in Tennessee, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. He is an associate minister at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, DC, board member and consultant to numerous organizations. Dr. Pollard has lectured, preached and traveled throughout Africa and the Diaspora. He and his wife Jessica Bryant Pollard, a high school counselor, have two adult children. 


Luther E. Smith Jr. – Emory University (emeritus)

Dr. Luther E. Smith Jr.'s current research focuses on the writings and correspondence of Howard Thurman, advocacy on behalf of children, and a spirituality of hope. Dr. Smith is an ordained elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 2009, Dr. Smith received the Phillips School of Theology "Bishops Thomas Hoyt and Paul Stewart Institutional Ministry Award for Outstanding Service to the Ministry of Academics." In 2010, he was the recipient of Emory University's "2010 Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award," which is given "in recognition of the important role of classroom teaching in classroom teaching in collegiate and graduate education."