Leah Burns’72 DSC
Awarded October 7, 2022
2022 Distinguished Service Citation
Leah Burns has always been passionate about dismantling racism. She advocated for equality during her time at Beloit College and was one of 35 Black students who occupied Middle College in 1969 to present a list of demands to college administrators for a more equitable college experience.
After graduating in 1972 with a degree in international relations, Leah began her career focused on diversity and inclusion in the corporate world. She switched gears in 2016 and became a United Methodist pastor, reconnecting to her family’s deep roots within the U.S. Black Methodist movement.
Searching for a place of worship in Knoxville, Leah met Mike Slimbarski and his wife at Second United Methodist Church. Leah’s passionate spirit won over the congregation, and she quickly became a leader in the church.
“In everything she does, it is with deep passion and 100 percent commitment,” Mike says. “She is deeply committed to the underrepresented, and deeply passionate about racial justice, but incredibly gracious to all who are around her regardless of their opinions.”
Leah leads with patience and acceptance, fostering diversity and acceptance within the church to make it a welcoming space to all.
“I don’t think her work is anywhere near done,” says Susan Montgomery, a longtime friend, who believes Leah can offer so much more to the world in addition to serving as pastor for her church.
The Beloit College Alumni Association is proud to recognize Leah Burns with the 2022 Distinguished Service Citation.