Rev. Dr. Marvin M. Ellison ’81 Announces June 30 Retirement from Union Theological Seminary

Categories: Press Releases, Union News


Respected Director of Alumni/ae Relations to be Succeeded by Rev. Emily E. Odom ‘90

New York City, NY — The Rev. Dr. Marvin M. Ellison, director of alumni/ae relations for Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, has announced that he plans to retire from that position — which has held since 2013 — effective June 30.

Over the past three and a half years, Ellison has been largely responsible for launching a national alumni/ae chapter program that has served to connect and engage alumni/ae in the life of the Seminary. In this important role, he has also staffed the Seminary’s Alumni/ae Council in its mission to support and promote Union’s mission.

Rev. Dr. Marvin M. Ellison ’81

“I am thankful to have worked as a member of Union’s outstanding Development Office staff and alongside our Alumni/ae Council,” says Ellison. “I’m heartened by the many ways in which the Council plays an incredibly important role in supporting Union’s mission and in engaging other alums both to ‘go back’ and ‘give back’ to our beloved seminary.  I trust that the Council’s good work will continue under new leadership.”

After earning a B.A. in religion from Davidson College, an M.A. in religion and society from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and a Ph.D. at Union, Ellison was invited to join the faculty of the Bangor (Maine) Theological Seminary in 1981, as the Willard S. Bass Professor of Christian Ethics. Over the years he lectured widely on ethical issues related to human sexuality, health care, and economic justice and published essays on same-sex marriage, gender justice in Protestant Christianity, and changing patterns of family life. When Bangor Seminary closed in 2013, Ellison assumed his current position.

“Marvin’s accomplishments in cultivating relationships with alumni/ae locally, regionally and nationally over such a short period have been truly remarkable,” said the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, Union’s president. “He has been an invaluable asset to our staff and will be greatly missed.”

Rev. Emily E. Odom ’90

Following Ellison’s departure, the Rev. Emily Enders Odom will assume the position of director, effective June 5. She and Ellison will overlap for one month to ensure a smooth transition in serving Union’s alumni/ae population and networks.

Odom, a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), holds a B.A. in German and Spanish from Wellesley College and an M.Div. from Union. She has served the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PC(USA) since August 2005 as a mission communications strategist. Previously a vice president for planning and administration at Montreat Conference Center (N.C.), Odom has also served as a parish pastor and hospital chaplain. In addition to her background in ministry, she has over ten years of experience in advertising, public relations, and television production.

“It was at Union where my professor and mentor, Dr. Phyllis Trible, first identified my call to write — a call that I have lived out with great joy and fulfillment at the PC(USA) national offices for 12 years,” said Odom. “I now look forward to serving the institution that so profoundly transformed me, especially in the important role of keeping our alumni/ae community networked, supported, and informed.”

A resident of Louisville, Kentucky, Odom will carry out her new responsibilities on a deployed basis.

“While we are saddened by Marvin’s departure, Union will be well served by an excellent successor in Emily,” Jones said.