Siena College is honored to have the opportunity to recognize the life of service and ministry of Reverend Robert C. Lamar.
Reverend Lamar was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the oldest of five children. He was raised in Pueblo, Colorado and Topeka, Kansas. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts from Yale College and a Bachelor of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, later serving two congregations in Connecticut before being called to Albany in 1958 to serve as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, one of the flagship Protestant churches in the Capital Region. Since the 1960’s, his congregation engaged in extensive efforts to connect faith and social action. These efforts led to new ecumenical and interfaith partnerships and First Presbyterian Church's involvement in the beginnings of significant community programs, including the Interfaith Task Force in Albany's South End; Wildwood School (now Wildwood Programs, Inc.); the South Mall Towers; Equinox, Inc.; the Eighth Step Coffee House; and the Focus Churches.
Reverend Lamar retired as Pastor Emeritus of First Presbyterian Church in 1992; in honor of his exemplary service and pastoral leadership an endowed annual lectureship was inaugurated by the congregation in his name. Following his retirement, he served as Executive Director of the Capital Area Council of Churches until 2001. During his active ministry, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA and served as Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Presbyterian Reunion from 1969-1983, when the Southern and Northern branches of the Presbyterian Churches were reunited. When the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was formed as a merger of several national Lutheran churches in the United States in 1989, he served as the official representative of the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the ELCA's inaugural meeting.
Reverend Lamar's ministry has been dedicated to social justice, equality, nonviolent social change, peace, and freedom for oppressed peoples. He has been a leader, locally, regionally, and nationally in civic and religious groups dedicated to advancing the cause of liberty and justice for people who are often marginalized by the majority cultures. Though officially "retired," he continues to serve on numerous boards that advance these causes, as well as interfaith dialogue. He is immediate past President of the Capital Region Ecumenical Organization (CREO); and serves on the boards of The Sidney and Beatrice Albert Interfaith Lecture Series at The College of Saint Rose; the Chapel House and Protestant Campus Ministry at the University at Albany; the Hayyim Kieval Institute for Jewish-Christian Studies at Siena College; the Commission on Jewish-Catholic Dialogue of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany; Equinox, Inc.; South Mall Towers; The William and Mary Barnet Foundation; and the Colonie Senior Service Centers, Inc. He has also served on the Advisory Board of the Siena Summer Institute for Religious Studies. He has been active in the Interfaith Alliance of New York State and the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition. He assisted in coordinating the creation of, and continues to actively oversee, the Interfaith Prayer Room at Albany International Airport.
A frequent speaker and guest preacher in Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox congregations, Jewish synagogues, and Muslim mosques in the Capital Region and beyond, Reverend Lamar provided leadership for a group of Capital Region Presbyterian and Jewish leaders, engaged in a series of dialogues during Fall 2006, so to assist these two communities to understand and appreciate each other more fully. During the past three decades, he has collaborated with Siena's Department of Religious Studies and the Reinhold Niebuhr Institute of Religion and Culture to develop community outreach educational programs for laity and clergy, in collaboration with ecumenical and/or interfaith regional organizations.
Long committed to interracial justice, Reverend Lamar has been an active member of the Interdenominational Ministers Conference of Albany and Vicinity, an organization whose membership is predominantly African American clergy. He has been a long-term supporter of The Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change at Siena College, including his personal advocacy for The William and Mary Barnet Foundation to provide funding for the Series.
Reverend Lamar has received numerous awards, including: an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Centre College; the From Fear to Friendship Award from Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in 2002; and the inaugural Interfaith Alliance Humanitarian Award from the Interfaith Alliance of the Capital District, now known as The Robert Lamar Humanitarian Award.
In recognition of his dedication to live a noble life of service to others through his faith and pastoral ministry; his extensive outreach to those underserved in the Capital Region of New York State; and his leadership of ecumenical and interfaith efforts among all religious communities, Siena College awards the Reverend Robert C. Lamar, the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.