Rev. David Semrad, who helped found the San Antonio Education Partnership and was an active member of COPS/Metro, died Jan. 6 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 78.
Semrad, who was born in Enid, Oklahoma, and raised on a wheat farm in that state, moved to San Antonio in 1978. An ordained Methodist minister, he served as the director of the United Methodist Campus Ministry in San Antonio at San Antonio College and the University of Texas at San Antonio from that time until he retired in 2008.
Semrad helped establish the San Antonio College Women’s Center as the founding board chair and design committee chair, served as a co-chair of COPS/Metro (when it was still called Communities Organized for Public Service and the Metro Alliance), founded the UTSA’s Business Ethics Symposium, and was a founding board member of Project Quest.
As a founder of the San Antonio Education Partnership (SAEP), he worked to reduce the number of high school dropouts in San Antonio. SAEP is a citywide program that unites local students, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, and government leaders with the goal of closing the college graduation gap. It assists students with meeting high school graduation requirements, enrolling in college, and achieving a college degree or certificate.
Megan Butler, SAEP’s outreach and development director, called Semrad “a passionate advocate for college access in our community. We value the time he spent spreading hope and changing lives for the future of San Antonio.”
Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros said Semrad was proof that one person can make a world of difference.
“David did major things for San Antonio,” Cisneros said. “If you look back to San Antonio of the 1980s, it was a very divided city and there was not a lot of what you would call equity in terms of distribution of bond issues or public improvements, or educational funding.”
Despite living on the North Side of San Antonio, Semrad made equity in opportunity his mission, and as co-chair of COPS/Metro was passionate about the San Antonio Education Partnership, Cisneros said.
While serving as director of the Methodist campus ministry, Semrad ministered to college students and frequently served as a host family for international students.
“My dad was a gentle, understanding, and compassionate man,” said Staci Semrad, one of two daughters. “He was a voice of courage for me, and he always inspired my sister and me to reach for the stars.”
Tavi Sellers, David’s older daughter, said her father loved bringing in young people from around the world to their home, seeking to make his house a home away from home for international students.
“My parents would help clothe them if they came from a different climate, especially for the winters we still lived in Kansas,” Sellers said. “I remember when he took some of the students on a snow sled ride. It was a lot of fun.”
Semrad attended Oklahoma State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English, and the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, earning a master’s degree in Theology. Semrad completed a doctoral degree at St. Paul’s School of Theology. While attending OSU, Semrad met his wife of 56 years, Judy.
Semrad led and participated in international missions to Mexico and Russia, Staci Semrad said. At one point, he took a three-month sabbatical to go to São Paulo, Brazil. Semrad sympathized with the downtrodden and was passionate about civil rights, his daughter said.
A craftsman who enjoyed woodworking, an outdoor enthusiast, and a devoted grandfather, Semrad enjoyed spending time with his family most of all, Staci Semrad said.
“He spent so much time with each grandchild individually but also collectively,” Sellers said. “He loved to read to them. He also baptized each of them, and did projects with each one.”
David Semrad, who died in Houston, is survived by his wife, Judy; daughter Tavi and son-in-law Mike Sellers; daughter Staci and son-in-law Adam Drutz; grandchildren Addison Drutz, Suzanne Drutz, and Tiffany Sellers; brother Melvin Semrad and sister-in-law Virginia Semrad; sister-in-law Donna Semrad; and aunt Helen Semrad Provine. A private viewing was held in Houston for immediate family members.
Tavi Sellers said the family plans to hold a memorial service in San Antonio at a later date at Colonial Hills United Methodist Church. Her father will be buried in Oklahoma.