UUA Presidents, 1961–2023

UUA Presidents, 1961–2023

A brief look at the people who have led the Unitarian Universalist Association since its founding.

Staff Writer


painting of Rev. Dr. Dana McLean Greeley
UUA Archives

Rev. Dr. Dana McLean Greeley, 1961–1969

A peace activist and civil rights leader, Greeley was the last president of the American Unitarian Association and the

first president of the newly formed Unitarian Universalist Association, which was created when the AUA and the Universalist Church of America consolidated in 1961.

painting of Rev. Robert Nelson West
UUA Archives

Rev. Robert Nelson West, 1969–1977

Widely credited with saving the UUA from bankruptcy, West also authorized Beacon Press to print the Pentagon Papers, established the UUA Office of Gay Concerns, authorized the UUA’s first religious education curriculum on sexuality, and created the newspaper Unitarian Universalist World (now UU World magazine). For more, read West's UU Worldobituary.

photo of Rev. Paul Nathaniel Carnes
UUA Archives

Rev. Paul Nathaniel Carnes, 1977–1979

A supporter of desegregation and civil liberties, Carnes worked to establish affirmative action for women and minorities in ministry. He reinstated the UUA’s Department of Social Responsibility to work on issues of racial equality. Carnes died of lymphoma in 1979 while serving as president.

painting of Rev. Dr. O. Eugene Pickett
UUA Archives

Rev. Dr. O. Eugene Pickett, 1979–1985

Selected by the UUA Board to complete Carnes’s term, and later elected to the position, Pickett oversaw a period of growth in UU congregations. He authorized the creation of the Singing the Living Tradition hymnal, facilitated the rewriting of the UU Principles, and was responsible for the UUA’s first major capital campaign and the creation of the Friends of the UUA donor program. For more, read Pickett's UU World obituary.

painting of Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz
UUA Archives

Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, 1985–1993

A social and environmental justice activist, Schulz was deeply involved with the Transylvanian Unitarians after the fall of the Ceaușescu regime and founded the Partner Church Program. He also turned the Unitarian Universalist World newspaper into The World magazine.

painting of Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens
UUA Archives

Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens, 1993–2001

Buehrens engaged the Boy Scouts of America over issues of God and acceptance of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender scouts and scout leaders. His administration oversaw the introduction of the Our Whole Lives sexuality education curricula (see “Supporting Healthy Sexuality with Justice and Inclusivity”), the creation of Skinner House Books, and the rebranding of The Worldmagazine as UU World.

painting of Rev. William G. Sinkford
UUA Archives

Rev. William G. Sinkford, 2001–2009

The UUA’s first Black president, Sinkford championed marriage equality and the reintroduction of a “language of reverence” in Unitarian Universalism. His quote, “We stand on the side of love” inspired the names of a popular hymn and the UUA’s Side With Love public advocacy campaign. Read more about Sinkford's presidency.

photograph of Rev. Peter Morales
© Nancy Pierce/UUA

Rev. Peter Morales, 2009–2017

Morales, the first Latino president of the UUA, made public witness central to his presidency, particularly for immigration reform and interfaith solidarity. He advocated and oversaw the sale of the UUA’s historic buildings on Boston’s Beacon Hill and relocation to its current offices at 24 Farnsworth Street. Morales resigned three months before the end of his second term.

photograph of Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt
© 2017 Nancy Pierce/UUA
photograph of Rev. William G. Sinkford
© 2017 Nancy Pierce/UUA
photograph of Dr. Leon Spencer
© 2017 Nancy Pierce/UUA

Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt, Rev. William G. Sinkford, and Dr. Leon Spencer, 2017

Following the early departure of Morales, the UUA Board made the historic decision to appoint three interim co-presidents until the scheduled presidential election at General Assembly three months later. The co-presidents set hiring goals to significantly increase the number of BIPOC leaders and staff at the UUA. Betancourt was the first woman to serve as UUA president.

photograph of Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray
© Kevin Thai/Three Circles Studio

Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, 2017–2023

The first woman elected UUA president, she made dismantling white supremacy culture a priority of her administration, including by beginning to implement recommendations from the Commission on Institutional Change’s Widening the Circle of Concern report. For more on her presidency, see “Leadership in Unprecedented Times.”