The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper has recently retired as the Executive Director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, where she served from 1991-2009. Nancy Jo, a native Lexingtonian, graduated with honors from Transylvania University, and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School, in New Haven, Connecticut. She holds ministerial standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ.
Over the last 20 years, she has written and spoken to many different audiences about a vast array of issues confronting America, including: civic literacy; economic justice; living wages; universal healthcare; a more humane federal farm bill; environmental justice; child abuse prevention; equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities; the eradication of poverty; peacemaking efforts and nuclear disarmament; gun control; Medicaid protection and expansion: K-CHIP enrollment changes; low income housing; comprehensive and progressive tax reform; restorative justice; the rights of immigrants and undocumented workers; opposition to torture; the death penalty; predatory lending; racial profiling, and the genocide in Darfur – just to name a few!
Prior to completion of her seminary training, Ms. Kemper worked for one year with the Urban League of Greater Little Rock, Arkansas; and spent a summer working with Vista Volunteers in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. Her world travels have taken her to Zimbabwe, Turkey, and to numerous countries in Europe.
A recipient of many honors, Rev. Kemper was recognized in 2001 by the Kentucky Conference for Community and Justice as the Humanitarian of the Year. Transylvania University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree also in 2001. She has been honored by the Central Kentucky Civil Liberties Union (2006), and by the Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass (2005) with their Faith and Freedom award for “courageously promoting traditional American values, defending religious liberty, and reinvigorating informed civic participation.” In 2009, she was recognized by the National Council of Churches of Christ in America for her contributions to ecumenical life.
Yale University Divinity School will honor Rev. Kemper with the 2010 William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Peace and Justice Award at its October 11–14, 2010 Convocation. The Coffin award was instituted in 2003, and is given in honor of the ministry of William Sloane Coffin, former chaplain to Yale University, and one of the 20th century’s most significant religious leaders. The recipient of the Coffin award is someone who shares Coffin’s passionate and prophetic witness, a courageous devotion to the dignity and worth of all persons, and who has made a notable contribution to the work of peace and reconciliation. Rev. Kemper is the first female graduate of Yale Divinity School to receive this honor.
Dr. Kemper is the mother of two grown daughters, and grandmother of two little girls, and continues to make her home in Lexington.