SMU names first woman as new chaplain and minister


The Rev. Lisa Garvin will join SMU Oct. 19 as its new chaplain and minister to the University, the first woman to serve in the role.

Garvin will replace the Rev. Steve Rankin, who intends to explore new ways to advance his ministry after 11 years of service to the University.

“I am elated to be joining the SMU community,” Garvin said. “To serve as your chaplain and minister to the University is a dream come true. I look forward to all the ways we will grow together in wisdom and faith.  Building on SMU’s deep roots in the United Methodist tradition, I am eager to engage SMU’s rich diversity and expand the table of religious life on The Hilltop.”

“Rev. Garvin’s appointment is the result of a national search, and we are delighted to welcome her to SMU. She brings to the table talents and passion uniquely valuable at this time in our history,” said K.C. Mmeje, Vice President for Student Affairs. “And I want to take this time to thank and honor Rev. Dr. Rankin for the service he has given to the University as chaplain and minister to the University since 2009. He has been a servant leader, supporting the University’s commitment to spiritual growth and ethical behavior.”

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SMU’s chaplain and minister to the University serves the entire SMU community, working with diverse campus ministries organizations that support and nurture students in the development of faith and ethics. While SMU is home to the Perkins School of Theology, one of five university-related schools of theology of the United Methodist Church, the University is non-sectarian in its teaching. Among SMU students reporting a religious preference, 28 percent are Catholic, 14 percent are Methodist and 46 percent are from other Protestant denominations. Eleven percent of its students represent other religions, including Judaism, Islam and Hinduism.

A native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Garvin comes to SMU from Emory University where she served as associate dean of the chapel and religious life for eight years. She was also the director of Ministerial Services for the Bishop’s Cabinet in the Mississippi Conference from 2008-2012 and chaplain to her alma mater – Millsaps College – from 2005-2008. She has a lifelong commitment to church-related higher education.

Garvin is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and currently serves as a director of its General Board of Church and Society and chairs the board’s Advocacy Work Area. A member of the Mississippi Conference, Garvin served as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2012 and as the secretary of the Committee on Higher Education and Ministry. She currently serves on the Georgia Prison Ministry Board and the Local Advisory Committee for AID Atlanta.

She graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and a Juris Master in Human Rights from Emory University School of Law. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in European Studies from Millsaps College. Garvin has been recognized by both universities for outstanding service.

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Garvin has a special interest in human rights and racial justice, and has led travel seminars (journeys of reconciliation) to South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the U.S.-Mexico border and Cuba.