David Emmanuel Goatley, an accomplished theologian, missiologist, and academic administrator, has been named the sixth president of Fuller Seminary. On January 3, 2023, Dr. Goatley will become Fuller’s first Black president and the first to have led a major global missions agency. He will succeed Mark Labberton, who announced this planned transition in October 2021.
The Board of Trustees unanimously selected Goatley from a considerable pool of highly qualified candidates, with enthusiastic confidence in his ability to lead the seminary into the future based on his impressive career that uniquely reflects Fuller’s values and major fields of study, as well as his proven ability to execute strategic plans as a leader in both higher education and other organizations. His appointment follows a comprehensive search that began in 2021 and was conducted by a Transition Discernment Team comprising trustees, faculty, staff, and a student representative, and aided by the search consulting firm ZRG Partners.
Goatley currently serves Duke Divinity School as the associate dean for academic and vocational formation, Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. Research Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry, and director of the Office of Black Church Studies. In addition to his scholarship and teaching as a constructive theologian with an extensive missiological background, he brings considerable experience overseeing multiple programs and departments that impact students, faculty, and staff, including admissions, academic programs, spiritual formation, financial aid, student services, and ethnic/denominational centers.
“The confluence of David Goatley’s professional expertise in the fields of theology, psychology and missiology, together with his experience as an academic dean at a premier university, make him a remarkable match for Fuller Seminary at this pivotal moment in its history,” said Dan Meyer, chair of the Board of Trustees. “For 75 years, Fuller Seminary has been blessed with uncommonly thoughtful, gracious, biblically rooted and culturally relevant presidents, and Dr. Goatley is another figure in this inspirational line. He will be a superb and groundbreaking leader of our vision to provide indispensable, formational education for Christian leaders everywhere.”
Goatley is eager to take on the role of leading Fuller, where nearly 3,000 students are enrolled annually in master’s and doctoral programs in the School of Mission and Theology and the School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy. “I rejoice that the Lord has called me to join this community of theological education and vocational formation at Fuller Seminary. It is a distinct honor to be part of this family and to succeed distinguished predecessors in service as the sixth president,” he said. “Innovation and imagination are no strangers at Fuller, and I am thrilled to follow the Spirit’s lead into a new era of teaching, learning, and serving the church and the world.”
Fuller’s Transition Discernment Team was impressed by Goatley’s exemplary character and profound understanding of the interlocking systems that make up premier academic institutions. “I am deeply excited about the wealth of experience that Dr. Goatley will bring to the community,” said Joey Fung, director of the Travis Research Institute and associate professor of psychology. “His vocation as an administrator, professor, missionary, and pastor, along with a background in pastoral care and counseling, make him an ideal candidate to preside over our two schools, as well as Fuller’s multiple centers and institutes.” Magdoleen Meleka, director of Fuller Careers and Personal Development, said she admired his “strong convictions and clear vision for the future of academic programs at Fuller, which is crucial in this season as we aim to meet the changing needs of the church and the marketplace.”
A native of Kentucky, Goatley earned his BS in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Louisville. He holds two degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: an MDiv with an emphasis in pastoral care and counseling, and a PhD in Theology. Ordained in the National Baptist Convention, USA, he was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Campbellsville, Kentucky, for nine years, then served as CEO of Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society for over 20 years. He has studied or worked in more than 35 countries, and has a keen understanding of the unique needs of the global church. Goatley is the author or editor of three books, as well as many articles, essays, and book chapters. His passion for justice is reflected in his activism around issues such as genocide, hunger, racism, and inequality, serving in leadership capacities for organizations including Kids Against Hunger, the Save Darfur Coalition, and the NAACP. He is married to Pamela Goatley, and they have a son, Atiba Emmanuel. Currently residing in Durham, North Carolina, the Goatleys will move to Pasadena when he assumes the role of president in the new year.
“Blessed with an extraordinary collection of life experiences, healthy drive, innovative spirit, and relevant capabilities all seasoned with wisdom, Dr. Goatley brings a track record of building up diverse leaders for Jesus across the globe,” said Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, a Fuller trustee and chair of the Transition Discernment Team. “He stands uniquely prepared to further propel Fuller’s mission right into the heart of the opportunity our present reality demands.”
ABOUT FULLER SEMINARY
Fuller Seminary is an evangelical, multidenominational graduate institution committed to providing indispensable, formational education for diverse Christian leaders everywhere. Through its two academic schools—the School of Mission and Theology and the School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy—Fuller Seminary offers master’s and doctoral degree programs to a diverse student body hailing from 80 countries and 113 denominations. FULLER Equip, the institution’s signature digital learning platform, provides accessible, non-degree courses built on Fuller’s robust scholarship. Fuller’s headquarters and historic main campus are located in Pasadena, California, with additional campuses in Phoenix and Houston, and most programs available completely online for global access.