James Croft (2015-2022)
James Croft moved from the position of outreach director, which he had held for five years, to Leader in June 2020. The start of his tenure has been defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed the Ethical Society’s building and required the community to develop new ways of gathering. He hopes to see the Society through the pandemic, keeping people safe and connected while continuing to spread Humanism in the St. Louis area.
Kate Lovelady is our Leader Emeritus. For fifteen years she tended to the health and growth of the community, oversaw major improvements to the auditorium and lead a campaign to hire a second full-time Leader. That effort makes the Ethical Society of St. Louis the only Ethical Society in the world to support two full-time clergy.
Don Johnson is the only Leader in Ethical Culture history to serve both the New York and the St. Louis Ethical Societies. Under his leadership the St. Louis Society initiated Great Books discussions. He was know for his poetry-infused Platform addresses, and is a Leader Emeritus of the Society.
Judy Toth was instrumental in a capital campaign conducted to build an addition onto the west wing of the Society building. In her role as head of staff, she was able to increase services without greatly increasing expenditures, with the addition of part-time staff.
Fred Campbell (1994-1995)
Reverend Campbell, from the Unitarian Universalists, served the Society for one year as Interim Leader as we transitioned from a long‑time Leader and searched for new leadership. He started the Society thinking of developing what has become today's Memory Garden.
John Hoad brought exceptional leadership skills to the Ethical Culture movement. Through — and beyond — his very popular Platform addresses and writing, he sought to bolster the Society's organizational strength.
Under James "Jeff" Hornback's leadership, the Society built and moved to its current building on Clayton Road in 1964. The Society continued to use the Sheldon Memorial building for social outreach programs and chamber music concerts for the next 10 years.
With Hynd’s retirement, no replacement was ready, so long time member Alexander S. Langsdorf, retired dean of Washington University's School of Engineering, became interim Leader. He had had a long-term and very active role in the society. He promoted a structured Sunday school curriculum, served as Board President (1930-37) and, often presided at platform and community meetings.
Hynd's ability to synthesize the arts and the sciences inspired members of the Ethical Society of St. Louis. His Platforms, which were deeply influenced by Stanton Coit's reverential style and creative use of ceremony, offered ongoing education in history, literature, philosophy, and comparative religion.
Percival Chubb believed that the primary purpose of congregations is to bring people together, and in this spirit he introduced to the Ethical Society a cycle of festivals to celebrate the rites and seasons common to all cultures.
Anna Sheldon (1907-1911)
Appointed Interim Leader on the death of her husband Walter. A strong and resourceful woman, she led the Society to build a permanent new meeting house — the Sheldon Memorial. In 1910 she married Percival Chubb who was to become the Society's next Leader.
A seminal thinker in the development of Ethical Culture, Walter Sheldon shared with the congregation his devotion to freethought, his desire to edify working-class citizens, and his pioneering work in the education of children in the importance of living ethically.
1886 to today
Memorial Hall to today
The Ethical Society of St. Louis has a long history in the St. Louis community. Our Leaders (that's our word for clergy) have contributed to our community and our city since our founding.