Staff Directory

Mark Ward

Rev. Mark Ward has been lead minister since 2004. UUCA was his first settlement after graduating from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, IL, including an internship at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, WI. He is fed by hiking, gardening – just about anything in the outdoors – and music, theater and poetry. Before ministry, he spent 25 years as a reporter, editor and editorial writer in Charleston, WV, and Milwaukee, WI. Before that he had bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy. He is married and the father of three grown daughters and two granddaughters.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
Minister@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x203

Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper

Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper has served UUCA since 2011, where she has primary responsibility for the social justice, pastoral care, and membership programs of the congregation. She is a graduate of Andover Newton Theological School (MDiv, Worship, Theology and the Arts) and Oberlin College (BA, History) and has served both as a parish minister and a hospital chaplain. She and her wife, Cindy, are parents to two foster kids and an orange tiger cat who likes to steal Q-tips out of the bathroom drawer. When she is not wrangling children, Lisa likes to knit, spin, make up recipes, and train for 5k races. She hopes to complete the Niagara Women’s Half Marathon sometime in the next few years.

Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper, Associate Minister
AssocMin@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x202

In addition to serving as Music Director for UUCA, Dr. Leslie Downs is active as both a solo and a collaborative pianist. He has performed in solo, lieder, chamber, and choral concerts throughout the United States and in Canada. He has also served as music director for regional musical theatre productions. For 16 years he worked as a freelance pianist/teacher/vocal coach in New York City and was principal accompanist for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus for six seasons.  Dr. Downs holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, Yale University, and the University of Oklahoma. He enjoys hiking, movies, theater, and murder mysteries.

Dr. Leslie Downs, Music Director
Music@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x216

Kim is a San Diego native and life-long UU. She grew up attending First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego and was a member of Summit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship prior to moving to Asheville and beginning her work at UUCA. Kim has lived on both coasts and is now happy to call the mountains her home. She enjoys cooking, reading, exploring Asheville and the surrounding areas, and tending to her pack of 3 dogs and 3 cats.

Kim Collins, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinator
LREC@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x210


Jen is the Lifespan Religious Education Assistant.  She revels in the energy of a group kids bonding, having fun, growing, and learning together. She is honored to be part of a nurturing and enriching RE program.  Jen has two instructions for you:  read your RE Weekly eNews (it’s the best way to get informed!) and reach out to someone you want to meet! Getting connected and being involved is sooooooo gratifying and beneficial.  Being a nature lover, Jen likes to be outdoors to hike, run, soak in the sun. She also loves the chance to curl up with a good book, to make and eat a good soup, get competitive on family game night, or hear and watch the high school marching band perform. She also loves chocolate and listening to The Moth podcast.

Jen Johnson, Lifespan Religious Education Assistant
LREAsst@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x205


Linda has been UUCA’s Director of Administration since 2011, much to her surprise.  In previous periods of her life she earned her BA and MA from Allegheny College and her Ph.D. from Kent State University.  She has worked as a junior high science teacher, a civil engineering assistant, a technical writer, and a training manager along with several stints as director of religious education in three UU congregations.  Since marrying Jim Smith in 2001, she’s learned that she enjoys having new adventures, fine dining and economics.   Linda became a Certified Church Administrator in 2016.

Dr. Linda Topp, Director of Administration and Acting Director of Religious Education
Administration@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x201

tish murphy

North Carolina native, Tish Murphy, grew up on the NC coast and first moved to Asheville in the 1970’s. After many wonderful stops working at resorts around the country, she returned to western NC in the 1993 with her husband, Leon and now resides in Madison County. Tish is a Certified Blue Ridge Naturalist and a Master Gardener. In addition to her love of the outdoors, cooking and the exploration of new cuisines keeps her busy in her spare time. Tish has worked for UUCA since February 2011.

Tish Murphy, Database Coordinator and Office Manager
Information@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x200


Becky Donald started at UUCA in May 2016.  She has worked for non-profit organizations for over 20 years and was the Finance Director at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity from 2003 – 2006 and the Chief Financial Officer at MANNA FoodBank from 2009-2013.  She was raised in St. Petersburg, Florida and moved to Asheville in 2000 after living in Tallahassee, Florida for many years and attending Florida State University for both her undergraduate and graduate studies. Becky’s lives in a little log cabin community in East Asheville shares her 480 square foot log cabin with two dachshunds and a quasi-feral cat.

Becky Donald, Bookkeeper
Bookkeeper@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x204


Venny Zachritz moved to Asheville in January 2016 from Cumberland, MD with the idea that she would be living the easy, relaxing life of retirement.  But, alas, she found out that she was terribly bored and driving her poor husband crazy with the “honey-do” list.  So fortunately for her the job as Connections Coordinator came to her attention and here she is.  Venny loves to garden, educate and interact with people so this job was a perfect fit for her (except for gardening, she gets to educate and interact with the good folks at UUCA).  Come and talk with Venny if you want to volunteer at UUCA and she will connect you with the program that fits your talents.

Venny Zachritz, Connections Coordinator
Connect@UUAsheville.org828-254-6001 x219