Holmes will relocate from Memphis to the Twin Cities and assume her duties in July.
"The selection of Holmes signals the beginning of a new era," said the Rev. Carolyn Hendrixson, Board chair. "For seminaries around the country, it's no longer business as usual. Our leaders need to be multifaceted administrators, fundraisers and program innovators."
"We have found this dynamic combination in Dr. Holmes, and we look to her leadership to move our progressive initiatives forward," said Hendrixson.
Since 1998, Holmes has served in both faculty and administrative capacities at Memphis Theological Seminary. She is currently professor of ethics and African-American religious studies, and served as vice president of academic affairs and dean from 2005 to 2010.
Noting that United's history of ecumenical dialogue and progressive education attracted her to the position, Holmes said, "United's commitment and its unwavering support for underserved groups match my own theological perspective."
Holmes holds an undergraduate degree in sociology and a master's in education. She taught kindergarten before entering law school. Afterward, she worked as a litigator and corporate attorney for 10 years.
Her interest in ministry was cultivated as a young child, but pursuit of her calling was hindered by a lack of women role models. She eventually enrolled in Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta and continued on to earn her Ph.D. in religion at Vanderbilt University.
United is an ecumenical institution offering master's and doctoral degree programs. Founded in 1962 as a seminary of the UCC, United was among the first in mainline Protestantism with an ecumenical focus.
For further details about Holmes, visit www.unitedseminary.edu.