Ordained Presidency: Education, Faith and Social Activism: The Leadership of Dr. Calvin Otis Butts

S. Raschaad Hoggard, Fordham University


Dr. Calvin Otis Butts, III is a towering figure in both the Black Church and in higher education. Dr. Butts is the only Black faith-based social activist to have led a famed house of worship and a respected public university concurrently for over two decades. Dr. Butts is the Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church and was the longest-serving President of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Old Westbury. The average tenure of a White College/ University President today is six and a half years and three and a half years for Blacks whereas Dr. Butts maintained his presidency for twenty-one years. Since the assassination of Dr. King and the end of the Civil Rights Movement, many pastors and congregations have remained on the margins of political and social activism. This study examined how the faith-based social activism of Dr. Butts’ informed, formed, and transformed his approach to leadership in religion and society and higher education institutions and what implications this may have on the formation and selection of transformational leaders within religion and society and higher education. A qualitative case study was employed, which provided a detailed oriented account of Dr. Butts’ activism and leadership as a minister at Abyssinian Baptist Church for fifty years and President of SUNY Old Westbury concurrently for twenty-one years. The findings of the study revealed that Dr. Butts is a social activist and transformational leader who applied the teachings of Jesus and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to address racial, social, and educational inequality. Additional findings and recommendations for further study are examined under the discussions and findings section.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|African American Studies|Religion

Recommended Citation

Hoggard, S. Raschaad, "Ordained Presidency: Education, Faith and Social Activism: The Leadership of Dr. Calvin Otis Butts" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29170763.