Bay Area Peace Forum


Dr. Riess Potterveld

Dr. Riess Potterveld is President of the Graduate Theological School having started his term of service July 1, 2013. The Graduate Theological Union is a consortium of eight seminaries and various centers and affiliates that create one of the largest interreligious centers in the US. Prior to his appointment at the GTU, he served as President of Pacific School of Religion from 2010–2013. He also served as the tenth president of Lancaster Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion from 2002-2010.  He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

Under Potterveld’s leadership, the GTU has prioritized the advancement of its unique character as a center of interreligious learning, while continuing to cultivate ecumenical engagement within the Christian tradition.  Several new initiatives are currently in process. These include new partnerships with Hindus and other Asian religions that will lead directly to new GTU course offerings in the coming year and, hopefully, the development of full academic centers in those religions.

Dr. Potterveld has taught courses in transformational leadership and the practical skills of ministry. He preaches and speaks widely throughout the region on issues of church and society and offers workshops on the interface between spirituality and art.

Under Dr. Potterveld’s leadership, Lancaster developed a unique ecology of theological education that offers learning opportunities to youth, lay leaders, congregations, newly ordained pastors, and seasoned pastors in addition to persons enrolled in regular degree and certificate programs.  Over 3,000 persons from North Carolina to New York study in LTS’ special programs each year.

Before coming to Lancaster, Riess served for ten years as Vice President and Dean of Pacific School of Religion, a seminary of the United Church of Christ in Berkeley, California. He and his staff were responsible for all fund development and planned giving at Pacific School of Religion, publications and public relations, external educational events, church and denominational relations, foundation grant proposals, web site, and seminary data base.

Riess previously served as senior minister of The Congregational Church of Northridge, California for 18 years. While at Northridge, he also lectured in the religious studies department of California State University, Northridge, offering courses in comparative religion, religion and literature, and bible. He received the Meritorious Performance and Professional Promise Award at California State University, Northridge, in 1988.

Riess was the co-founder and president of The Valley Shelter, a large multi-service shelter for homeless people in the San Fernando Valley for three years beginning in 1986.

Riess graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he earned a B.A. in religion. After being named a Booth Ferris Fellow by the Fund for Theological Education, he attended Yale University Divinity School. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Yale, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Claremont Graduate University in philosophy of religion.

Riess is married to Tara Potterveld, a sign language interpreter for the Deaf and sculptor and they share four adult sons and seven grandchildren.