President & CEO
Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is a pastor, philanthropist and activist pursuing God’s vision of community marked by justice, peace and love. He is president & CEO of Deaconess Foundation, board chair for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) and vice chair of the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE).

Deaconess is a faith-based grant making organization supporting a movement for child well-being in St. Louis through philanthropy, advocacy and organizing for racial equity and public policy change. Since 1998, the Foundation has invested more than $85 million to advance its mission. Under his leadership, Deaconess constructed and established the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, a 21,000 square foot community action tank.  Each year, more than 15,000 citizens engage the Center to build power for children and families. Alongside its capacity building support for non-profits, the Foundation sponsors a network of congregation-based Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools.

From 2008 through 2018, Dr. Wilson pastored Saint John’s Church (The Beloved Community), an inter-racial, inner-city congregation related to the United Church of Christ. There he led activism on myriad issues while more than quadrupling worship attendance and annual giving. To expand the church’s witness, he established The Beloved Community Conference resourcing social justice ministries and Sojourner’s Truth: Celebration of Preaching Women.

After the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., with Wilson’s leadership, the church hosted the #BlackLivesMatter Freedom Ride to Ferguson and served as the welcome center for the #FergusonOctober. In service of community healing, he co-chaired the Ferguson Commission. In 2015, they released the ‘Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity’ Report, calling for sweeping changes in policing, the courts, child well-being and economic mobility. In addition to NCRP and FTE, Dr. Wilson serves boards for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Sojourners, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He is an advisor to the Democracy Fund.

Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Xavier University of Louisiana, Master of Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Ministry from Duke University. For his public theology, he 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 for St. Louis Children’s Hospital. They are raising four children in St. Louis.

Rev. Dr. Starsky D. Wilson

"Whose Sanctuary Is This?"
Closing Sermon
CDF Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry, 2019 
Children's Defense Fund Alex Haley Farm
Clinton, TN

Dr. Wilson has lectured and delivered keynote or commencement addresses for communities across the country, including:

Council on World Mission DARE Global Forum (Bangkok, Thailand)

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations National Conference (Minneapolis, MN)

Grantmakers in Health Lauren Leroy Health Policy Lecture (Washington, DC)

Collective Impact Forum National Convening (Seattle, WA)

Tutu Center for Reconciliation at Butler University/Christian Theological Seminary (Indianapolis, IN)

Asset Funders Network (Indianapolis, IN)

Influencing Social Policy’s Policy Conference 2.0 (St. Louis, MO)

Aspen Institute Inequity and Opportunity Summit (Washington, DC)

Honig Lecture – Addams School of Social Work at University of Illinois Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Institute of Museum and Library Services National Forum (Philadelphia, PA)

Lumina Foundation National Convening on College Access (St. Louis, MO)

United States Commission on Civil Rights (Washington, DC)

Texas Asset Funders and Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ RAISE Texas Summit (Dallas, TX)

Prosperity NOW (Washington, DC)

Duke University Schools of Public Health and Divinity Criminal (In)justice Conference (Durham, NC)

Purdue University Cummings-Perrucci Lecture (Lafayette, IN)

Project Equality 2019 Inclusion and Diversity Summit (Kansas City, MO)

University of South Carolina School of Social Work (Columbia, SC)

Washington University Brown School of Social Work Commencement (St. Louis, MO)

Saint Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice Commencement (St. Louis, MO)

University of Missouri St. Louis Schools of Social Work and Education Commencement (St. Louis, MO)

Wilson’s preaching and teaching of God’s hope for justice and transformation has touched lives across diverse, ecumenical and interfaith boundaries. Recent settings for his ministry have included:

Lilly Endowment National Summit on the Economics of Ministry (Indianapolis, IN)

Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (Memphis, TN and Birmingham, AL)

Children’s Defense Fund Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry (Clinton, TN)

Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Crown Forum (Atlanta, GA)

Lakeside Chautauqua Summer Preaching Series (Lakeside, OH)

Bayview Association Chautauqua Summer Preaching Series (Petosky, MI)

Fourth Episcopal District A.M.E. Church Spiritual Convocation (Chicago, IL)

Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock Veatch Weekend (Manhasset, NY)

Giving Freedom Conference at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology (Atlanta, GA)

St. Paul Community Baptist Church 25th Anniversary MAAFA Celebration (Brooklyn, NY)

Michigan Conference United Church of Christ Annual Gathering (Kalamazoo, MI)

Brentwood Baptist Church Criminal Justice Sunday (Houston, TX)

Trinity United Church of Christ Men’s Conference (Chicago, IL)

St. Paul’s Baptist Church Education Sunday (Charlotte, NC)

Washington Gladden Lectures of First Congregational Church (Columbus, OH)

Union Baptist Church Mission Sunday (Durham, NC)

Ohio Conference United Church of Christ Annual Gathering (Westerville, OH)

Brite Divinity School (Fort Worth, TX)

Rev. Wilson’s leadership has been honored with numerous awards, including:

St. Louis Magazine “Power 100” List

Ingram’s “Fifty Missourians You Should Know”

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