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Starsky Wilson To Step Down As Deaconess President To Head Children’s Defense Fund

The Rev. Starsky Wilson former co-chair of the Ferguson Commission
File photo / Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
The Rev. Starsky Wilson will step down as president of the Deaconess Foundation after nine years.

The Rev. Starsky Wilson, an advocate for social justice and children, will step down as president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation to lead the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C.

Wilson, who has led the foundation for nine years, will become president and CEO of the national organization in December. He will succeed Marian Wright Edelman, a leading advocate for disadvantaged Americans.

“The Deaconess Foundation has been a remarkable place for me to learn from the best in philanthropy and child advocacy and directly from young people in our community who have a vision for a stronger, better and more equitable St. Louis,” Wilson said.

On its website, the Children’s Defense Fund called Wilson “a national thought leader in racial justice, community organizing and movement building” and “a champion for children’s rights.”

Wilson, who served as co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, said his time working for social and racial justice in the St. Louis region will serve him well in his new role.

“The experience from St. Louis and Ferguson where this movement really catalyzed much of the extended movement that we find ourselves in now,” Wilson said. “What I’m excited about with the Children’s Defense Fund is the opportunity to continue this legacy.”

Wilson’s time as president coincided with his own role as pastor of St. John's United Church of Christ (The Beloved Community) on North Grand Boulevard. The church became a gathering place for local activists and organizers during the Ferguson Uprising. Wilson stepped down as lead pastor in 2018 to focus on his work at the Deaconess Foundation. He said serving as a leader and co-chair was a watershed moment.

“In that moment I learned a lot about myself,” Wilson said. “Adaptive leadership really requires us to stand with moral convictions when there are not simple answers to the questions.”

The Deaconess Foundation Board plans a national search for its next leader.

“I have every confidence that with the partnerships that we got the board that we got and the staff that we got that the next leader will be set up for remarkable success,” Wilson said. “Deaconess will have the posture that it always has, which is listening to the community, deeply proximate to the issues that are impacting children and young people and seeking to build power on their behalf.”

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.