Distinguished Alum Awards

Distinguished Alums 2011

Dennis M. Oglesby Jr.

2012 Distinguished Alum award winners Dennis M. Oglesby Jr. and Phyllis Kohl Coston stand next to Garrett-Evangelical's president. All three people are wearing graduation robes.

Dennis M. Oglesby Jr. earned a master of divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1995 and a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications from Rust College in Mississippi.  Initially under appointment in the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church, he served as pastor of Sherman United Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois from 1991 to 1997 and Faith United Methodist Church in Dolton, Illinois from 1997 to 2000.

Oglesby is now an ordained elder and member in full connection of the Minnesota Annual Conference.  In his six years as senior associate and “Minister to the City” at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis from 2000 to 2006, he established the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church Dignity Center, an outreach ministry that serves the needs of the poor and disenfranchised, as well as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series on Racial Reconciliation, an annual event in the life of Hennepin Avenue UMC.

In June 2006 he began his appointment as senior pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, the position he now holds.  He served as a member of the Minnesota Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry as Conference Relations Chair from 2001 to 2007. His high standards concerning connectional responsibilities, paired with his concern for individuals, serve to bring order and clarity to the process for communicating with and caring for clergy.

Oglesby also served as the chair of the Religion and Race Action Team from 2002 to 2008 and was elected as vice-chair of Black Methodists for Church Renewal during its 2006 annual meeting in Dallas, Texas. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee.  His community service has been reflected in his participation as a board member of the Neighborhood Involvement Project, the Center for Urban Education for Hamline University, the African American Men’s Project of Hennepin County, and the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center.  In addition, he is president of Park Avenue Youth & Family Services.

Oglesby’s professional experiences include human resources, research and program development, public housing management, training/group facilitation and youth leadership development. Oglesby has also served as an adjunct faculty member of St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis in the school of business and information technology.

He is married to Greta Oglesby, award-winning actress and vocalist. They have two children, Meghann Dominique and Chase Michael.

Phyllis Kohl Coston

When Phyllis Kohl Coston was in high school, she decided to become a Methodist minister, which meant going to college and seminary.  No one told her that she would face discrimination and challenges in pursuit of her dream to become ordained in the Methodist Church.

Coston earned a bachelor of arts degree from West Virginia Wesleyan before pursuing a seminary education. During her first year at Garrett Biblical Institute (1953-54), Coston took the usual courses in Bible, theology, and Christian education.  In June 1954 she married Herbert Coston and became a full-time teacher of eighth-grade English and a part-time student, while her husband continued work toward his doctor of philosophy degree. During this time she continued courses in Bible and Christian education at Garrett and language arts and reading at Northwestern.  She earned her master of arts degree in 1958.

Coston joined the West Virginia Wesleyan College faculty in 1963 and became one of the nation’s leaders in educating students with diagnosed learning disabilities.  In 1963 Coston pioneered, authored and founded the Learning Center, the first center in the state and one of the earliest in the country to assist all Wesleyan students in enhancing their reading and learning skills. In 1982 she developed the special services program to assist learning-disabled students, specifically those with dyslexia. This center gained national attention as one of the finest programs for dyslexic students.   Some years she had 300 students on the waiting list.

She has also been an outstanding teacher of religious education at West Virginia Wesleyan, carrying her skills beyond her classroom to help local pastors in very small churches.  She was the 1993 recipient of the United Methodist Award for Exemplary Teaching, and she received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from West Virginia Wesleyan in 1998.

Coston has been supportive and active in her local community and in The United Methodist Church. She has put her seminary training into practice by serving on numerous boards and committees, teaching Sunday school, assisting in worship, preaching and leading Bible studies.  In addition, she has been a leader in the West Virginia Annual Conference, serving on the Board of Deacons and the Board of Ordained Ministry, as well as teaching numerous courses at Conference Schools of Mission.  In June 2010 Coston was awarded the Francis Asbury Award from the West Virginia Annual Conference for fostering United Methodist Ministries in Higher Education.

Coston has worked for the equality of women and for equality of ordination for deacons in The United Methodist Church.  She was consecrated a diaconal minister in the West Virginia Annual Conference in 1982 and served as chair of the Board of Diaconal Ministry in the conference from 1988 to 1996.  She was in the first group to be ordained deacon in 1996 and served as chair of the Order of Deacons of the West Virginia Annual Conference from 1996 to 2008.