New Library at Seminary of the Southwest to be named for the Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison

Former Board Chair and Alumna to be honored by gift from the Episcopal Foundation of Texas

Seminary of the Southwest
Posted Mar 3, 2023

The Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison

Seminary of the Southwest (Southwest) announces that the new library currently under construction on the campus of Southwest will be named in honor of the Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison. Following a leadership gift to the building campaign from the Episcopal Foundation of Texas (EFT) and an unanimous recommendation by the Southwest Board of Trustees, the naming honors Bishop Harrison’s long-standing commitment to Seminary of the Southwest, theological education, the Diocese of Texas, and The Episcopal Church. Upon completion, the library – a foundational component of the $23.6 million state-of-the-art teaching complex at Southwest – will be ‘The Bishop Dena A. Harrison Library at Seminary of the Southwest.’

Harrison, who graduated from Southwest with a Master of Divinity in 1987, joined the Board of Trustees in 2005, and served as Chair from 2009 to 2018. Under her leadership, Seminary of the Southwest enjoyed tremendous growth in areas of leadership, facility, faculty, and reputation. She played key roles in the recruitment of the Very Rev. Doug Travis as Dean in 2006 and appointed the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge in 2013.

“Bishop Harrison is what I call ‘a go to bishop,’ someone you go to to get the job done, to navigate complex situations, to do it all as a follower of Jesus,” said the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church. “She embodies both deep faithfulness and real competence. I thank God for Bishop Dena Harrison!” Bishop Curry served as the Honorary Chair of Forming Leaders At the Frontier: Campaign for Southwest, the fundraising initiative that led to the construction of the library. He will join other key leadership at a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 13, 2023.

“Bishop Harrison is a mentor, friend, and true hero to me,” said the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest. “Her vision for the seminary and encouragement have been a source of ongoing strength and inspiration. I am thrilled that her name will be nearby every day in the Bishop Dena A. Harrison Library.”

As Chair of the Board of Trustees, Harrison oversaw the long-needed renovation of the Bailey Center at Rather House and the Austin Diocesan Center on the Southwest campus, ensured the long-term fiscal health and academic integrity of the seminary by leading the $16,000,000 Campaign for Leadership, and laid the groundwork for the transformational Forming Leaders at the Frontier campaign that allowed for the construction of the academic complex which includes the library that will bear her name.

“Bishop Dena Harrison is an amazing and gifted bishop of the Episcopal Church and graduate of Seminary of the Southwest,” said the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, IX Bishop of Texas. “Her leadership and pastoral skills placed her in unique moments through which she was able to make a difference in the lives of the people entrusted to her care and The Diocese of Texas. She led the seminary with strength and grace as chair, bringing about the first successful capital campaign upon which her successors have built. She is the first woman bishop of The Diocese of Texas, of the Episcopal Church in Texas, and in Province VII of the Episcopal Church. During her ministry she was a voice of change across the wider church for safeguarding children, discernment for vocations (especially around recruitment of people of color), and formation. She called the House of Bishops to a high standard of unity and held us to the same standard of forthright relationship.”

“The work of the Church always needs more devoted and well educated priests, and Seminary of the Southwest serves a vital role in preparing new clergy to serve in Texas and beyond,” said Bruce McDonald, president of the Episcopal Foundation of Texas’ board of trustees.  “The Foundation’s support for construction of this library, named after devoted Southwest alumna Bishop Dena Harrison, reflects the seminary’s commitment to develop pastors with the sound training in scripture, theology, psychology, and other disciplines, to address the difficult questions faced by today’s believers.”

An innovative and strategic thinker, Harrison’s tenure as Board Chair saw Southwest expand its curricular focus in ways that solidified the seminary’s reputation and finances, and addressed key areas of need in The Episcopal Church and the broader communities it serves. She brought together representatives from the Iona School for Ministry and Seminary of the Southwest, which became the Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest. On her watch, Southwest’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree attained the highly significant CACREP accreditation, establishing that degree program as one of the most desirable in the region. Southwest’s core counseling fellows program, the Dena A. Harrison Fellowship, was also named for Harrison and places graduates from Seminary of the Southwest among populations within the Diocese of Texas designated as under-served in regards to mental health services to offer counseling services.

“Bishop Harrison is Seminary of the Southwest’s most impactful alum,” said the Rt. Rev. Kathryn Ryan, Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Texas. “Though she wasn’t the first of our woman students to be ordained, she was the first woman to be elected to the episcopate in Province VII. She was a role model for clergy, including me, long before she was consecrated because of her deep faith in Christ, her practical wisdom mixed with a commitment to scholarship, and her savvy organizational practices. She has shown women in the Church what it looks like to persevere and to lead unapologetically. Her belief that the Church needs well-formed clergy, whether full-time or bi-vocational, fueled her investments in the creation of the Iona Collaborative and the strengthening of the Seminary of the Southwest.”

Harrison, who retired in 2018 after 31 years of ordained ministry, served at All Saints, Austin; as rector at St. James, LaGrange and St. James, Conroe; as archdeacon of the Diocese of Texas; and for the last 12 years of her ministry, bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Texas.

“Her name on the new Library is a symbol of the excellence Seminary of the Southwest offers for the raising up of ministers lay and ordained for the work of God’s mission,” added Bishop Doyle. “It is also a symbol of historic steps taken by women clergy in Texas through ministry for the good of God’s Episcopal Church and the Gospel of Christ.”

Harold and Patricia Booher – the library staff for whom the former library was named upon their retirement in 2000 – will continue to be honored as the library’s print collection will be dedicated as ‘The Harold H. and Patricia M. Booher Collection at Seminary of the Southwest.’

To learn more about the new library and teaching complex at Seminary of the Southwest, visit: