PRESIDENT KEVIN W. COSBY
SINCE 1979, THE REVEREND DR. KEVIN W. COSBY has served as senior pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Under his oversight, the congregation has grown from 150 to approximately 14,000 members, due greatly to his practical and dynamic Bible teaching. St. Stephen has been recognized by Outreach magazine as one of the 100 largest churches in America (2010) and by Emerge magazine as one of six “super churches” of the South. St. Stephen is the largest African-American church in Kentucky.
During his tenure at St. Stephen, the church has metamorphosed from the “little church on the corner” to a multi-faceted institution that includes a 1,700-seat worship center and a cutting-edge $15 million urban family life center located in the poorest zip code in state of Kentucky. In 2001, Dr. Cosby established a church in Jeffersonville, Indiana that now includes a 1,000 worship center and prayer retreat center. In October 2013, Dr. Cosby established a church in Hardin County, Kentucky. During the first Sunday’s service, seventy people united with the church.
Dr. Cosby’s leadership is evidenced in the growth of St. Stephen and in the resurgence of Simmons College of Kentucky (SCKY). In 1997, Dr. Cosby led the church to purchase the original four-acre campus of Simmons University and convert the property into a lifestyle enrichment facility.
In 2005, Dr. Cosby was named the thirteenth president of Simmons. Since that time, the college has experienced a resurgence that is unprecedented and unparalleled by a college or university in America. After two years under his leadership, the college returned to their original campus—built by formerly enslaved visionaries and overtaken by the University of Louisville in 1930.
Eventually, Simmons was able to purchase the property from the church.
In the fifteen years of his tenure, Dr. Cosby has refused almost $1 million in salary from the college.
Under his visionary direction, SCKY was granted accreditation by the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) in early 2014. Through President Cosby’s leadership, the college applied for official status as one of the nation’s Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU). In 2015, Simmons College of Kentucky was officially designated the nation’s 107th HBCU. Dr. Cosby was named one of the Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2019 by the HBCU Campaign Fund.
A staunch proponent of education, Dr. Cosby earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Eastern Kentucky University, Bellarmine University, and Campbellsville University.
He has held administrative and teaching assignments at Kentucky State University, the University of Louisville, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary. Dr. Cosby is a member of the board of trustees at the University of Louisville and at Kentucky State University, the state’s public HBCU.
Dr. Cosby’s exceptional oratorical skills have garnered him lecture engagements at universities and institutions all over the world, including Harvard University. In 2016, he was a eulogist at the memorial service for heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, which was seen by millions of viewers worldwide. (The service is available on youtube.com.) President Bill Clinton described Dr. Cosby’s message as “amazing.
He has been the subject of many nationally-circulated articles and documentaries, and he is consistently listed among Kentucky’s most influential leaders. His 2007 selection as Louisvillian of the Year is a tribute to his outstanding contributions to the city. He was ranked number one among the Top Ten Religious Leaders in the city by Louisville Magazine (October 2011 issue). In the spring of 2012, he was inducted into the Hall of Distinguished Alumni at Eastern Kentucky University. The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights inducted Dr. Cosby into the gallery of Great Black Kentuckians at the state capitol in February 2015. He is the 56th African American accorded this honor.
Although Dr. Cosby has many notable accomplishments, he is highly regarded for his intense commitment to exercising his faith through improving the lives of others. His regard in this area is evidenced in his successful negotiation with the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky (BSK) to relocate to Louisville on the SCKY campus.
Through his pivotal position at Simmons, Dr. Cosby has successfully navigated several strategic partnerships with a broad spectrum of organizations. It was largely because of his influence that the National Baptist Convention of America, International moved their headquarters to Louisville and adopted Simmons as their official school.
Dr. Cosby is a major influencer in the #ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) movement, which has been featured prominently by the New York Times and ABC News. BSK has named the nation’s first ADOS scholarship (The Cosby Scholars) in his honor.
He was a critical visionary in bringing the EmpowerWest platform to fruition. EmpowerWest is a coalition of Louisville area pastors and churches seeking to unleash the educational, economic, and spiritual power of West Louisville residents so that they might maximize their God-given potential and capacity.
Dr. Cosby led SCKY to spearhead the Angela Project to assist African-American institutions and promote African-American prosperity. In 2019, the Angela Project orchestrated a nationwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of black enslavement in the Americas. The initiative led the publication of two popular resources to guide participants in forty days of prayer related to the observance.
Dr. Cosby has authored five highly-acclaimed books: Get off Your But!: Messages, Musings & Ministries to Empower the African-American Church; As They Went; Treasure Worth Seeking; Who’s Your Daddy?: Life Lessons from the Prodigal Son, and Loyal to the Royal. He has been a contributing writer to a number of books, journals, and periodicals. His upcoming book, scheduled for release in 2021 by Westminster John Knox Press, addresses the ADOS movement from a theological perspective.
Dr. Cosby is married to the former Barnetta Turner; they are the parents of two adult children.