A black studies program graduate of Denison University, Elizabeth J. A. Siwo-Okundi '01, believes that preaching should address the realities of the human experience in its beauty and its pain. She engages the “small voice” to comfort, challenge, and celebrate. Her award-winning sermons expose the unnoticed and unnamed, silenced and marginalized, rejected and neglected voices within social contexts and religious texts.
Siwo-Okundi, a Kenyan, is deeply influenced by the faithful and informed activism of her family. The daughter of a professor and a nurse, she founded a non-profit organization to support orphans in Kenya. She also has raised resources for persons affected by post-election violence in Kenya. Locally and internationally, she speaks at academic and religious institutions to address violence against women and girls.
Siwo-Okundi has preached in numerous settings, served as a pastor and spiritual advisor, and taught at the university level. While completing a Master of Theology at Harvard Divinity School, she was selected as the student commencement speaker and featured in the Harvard University Gazette as one of 12 “best and brightest” among Harvard’s graduating class of nearly 7,000 students.
Her scholarship, sermons and prayers are published in academic journals and books including the 3-volume “Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary” and “Unraveling and Reweaving Sacred Canon in Africana Womanhood.”
At Denison, Siwo-Okundi was elected student government president and selected as the student commencement speaker. She received the college's Distinguished Leadership Award and the Black Student Union’s Distinguished Leader Award. She penned the proposal to make Martin Luther King Day an official holiday at Denison and was invited a few years later to give the MLK Opening Convocation address. Elizabeth is one of the youngest alumni to be awarded an Alumni Citation.