The Reverend Starsky D. Wilson is a pastor, philanthropist and activist pursuing God's vision of community marked by justice, peace and love. He is pastor of Saint John's Church (The Beloved Community), president & CEO of Deaconess Foundation and chair of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
Deaconess is a faith-based grant making organization devoted to making child well-being a civic priority in the St. Louis region. Since 1998, Deaconess has invested nearly $80 million to advance its mission. With Rev. Wilson’s leadership, the Foundation is building a movement for child well-being through philanthropy, advocacy and organizing. In 2016, Deaconess broke ground on a 20,000 square foot Center for Child Well-being to serve as a collaborative hub for child advocates to open in December 2017. With the Children’s Defense Fund, the Foundation opened three new Freedom Schools in the Summer of 2017 hosted by local United Church of Christ congregations.
Saint John’s Church (The Beloved Community) is an inter-racial, inner-city congregation in St. Louis, affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Through Saint John's, Wilson has led activism on myriad issues, including youth violence prevention, Medicaid expansion, public school accreditation, voter mobilization, capping payday lending and raising the minimum wage, while more than quadrupling worship attendance and annual giving. He established The Beloved Community Conference to resource social justice ministries and Sojourner’s Truth: Celebration of Preaching Women.
In 2014, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appointed Rev. Wilson to lead the Ferguson Commission, a group of citizens empowered to study the underlying conditions and make public policy recommendations to help the region progress through issues exposed by the tragic death of Michael Brown, Jr. In 2015, they released the ground-breaking ‘Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity’ Report, calling for sweeping changes in policing, the courts, child well-being and economic mobility.
Wilson was elected chair of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in 2017. He also serves boards for Chicago Theological Seminary, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Let America Vote, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and the Chancellor’s Council for the University of Missouri St. Louis, where he leads the Governance Committee. Under his leadership, the Urban League Young Professionals established St. Louis’ annual Young Blacks Give Back community service blitz.
Rev. Wilson earned a bachelor of arts in political science from Xavier University of Louisiana, master of divinity from Eden Theological Seminary and is currently completing his doctoral thesis, entitled The Truth of Reconciliation: Leadership for American Apartheid, at Duke Divinity School. For his public theology and ministry, Wilson was awarded doctor of public service and doctor of divinity degrees honoris causa by Saint Louis University and Eden Theological Seminary. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Starsky is married to Dr. LaToya Smith Wilson, a dentist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. They are raising four children in St. Louis.
Rev. Wilson’s leadership has been honored with numerous awards including:
- Martin L. King, Jr. Board of Preachers at MLK International Chapel of Morehouse College
- International Association of Human Rights Agencies Bill Hale Award
- Saint Louis University’s Martin L. King, Jr. Community Leadership Award
- Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Inaugural “40 Under 40” Award
- The Saint Louis Award
- National Urban League Young Professionals - Lifetime Achievement Award
- St. Louis American - Person of the Year & Young Leader Awards
- St. Louis Business Journal - Diverse Business Leaders & 40 Under 40 Awards
- Mathews-Dickey Boys' and Girls' Club - Bill Maritz Memorial Award
- National Conference for Community and Justice - Brotherhood Sisterhood Award
- Family Resource Center - Pott Foundation Child Advocacy Award
- Xavier University of Louisiana - “40 Under 40” Young Alumni Award
- St. Louis Children’s Hospital - Community Advocate of the Year Award
- St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council - Open Door Award
- YMCA of Greater St. Louis - Human Dignity Award
Below is a partial list of recent keynotes, commencement addresses and public lectures delivered by Rev. Wilson.
- Washington University Brown School of Social Work Commencement (St. Louis, MO - 2014)
- Saint Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice Commencement (St. Louis, MO - 2015)
- Tutu Center for Reconciliation at Butler University/Christian Theological Seminary (Indianapolis, IN - 2015)
- Lumina Foundation National Convening (St. Louis, MO - 2016)
- Grantmakers for Effective Organizations National Conference (Minneapolis, MN - 2016)
- United States Commission on Civil Rights (Washington, DC - 2016)
- Center for Enterprise Development (Washington, DC - 2016)
- Collective Impact Forum (Seattle, WA - 2016)
- Duke University Schools of Public Health and Divinity Criminal (In)justice Conference (Durham, NC - 2016)
- Institute of Museum and Library Services (Philadelphia, PA - 2016)
- Children’s Defense Fund Child Advocacy Ministry Institute (Clinton, TN - 2016)
- Influencing Social Policy’s Policy Conference 2.0 (St. Louis, MO - 2016)
- Trinity United Church of Christ Men’s Conference (Chicago, IL - 2016 )
- Brite Divinity School (Fort Worth, TX - 2016)
- Cummings-Perrucci Lecture – Purdue University (Lafayette, IN - 2016)
- Morehouse College MLK Crown Forum Address (Atlanta, GA - 2017)
- Aspen Institute Inequity and Opportunity Summit (Washington, DC - 2017)
- Honig Lecture – Addams School of Social Work at University of Illinois Chicago (Chicago, IL - 2017)
- Asset Funders Network (Indianapolis, IN - 2017)
- Council on World Mission DARE Global Forum (Bangkok, Thailand - 2017)