SMU names Lisa Garvin as chaplain, minister to university

Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs

August 26, 2020

Dear SMU Community,

I am pleased to announce that the Rev. Lisa Garvin has been named Chaplain and Minister to the University, effective October 19, 2020.

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. Rev. Garvin will make history by being the first woman at SMU to hold the role of Chaplain and Minister 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.”

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.

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.

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.

Thank you to the search committee for conducting a successful national search. In addition, thank you to those who interviewed and provided feedback on our finalists.

Please join me in welcoming Rev. Lisa Garvin to the Hilltop.


K.C. Mmeje
Vice President for Student Affairs

For more information about the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, please visit

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