Ronald E. Sleeth was born in Charleston, West Virginia, on June 7, 1921, the son of Ray Vernon Sleeth and Fannie (Crislip) Sleeth. After attending Charleston High School, he graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1942 with a B.A. degree. Sleeth went on to Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, where he received a B.D. degree. He was ordained a deacon by the West Virginia Conference of the Methodist Church in 1944, and in 1947 was ordained an elder and received into full connection in that conference.
From 1944-46, he served as chaplain in the United States Naval Reserve. He was stationed in Hawaii for a portion of that time.
Sleeth returned to West Virginia Wesleyan College as an Assistant Professor of Speech. From there he went to Garrett Theological Seminary of Northwestern University as an Associate Professor of Preaching and Speech while he worked on his master’s and doctoral degress (1948 and 1952 respectively). On September 5, 1952, at Kenilworth, Illinois, he married Natalie Allyn Wakeley. Mrs. Sleeth became a well-known composer of choral music with compositions in both the sacred and secular fields. The Sleeths had two children, Molly Ann and David Thompson.
During the years 1957-64, Sleeth became Professor of Preaching an Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. His next move took him to Sourthern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology, in Dallas, Texas, in the position of Professor of Preaching. In the thirteen years he served there, he was involved in many other activities besides his teaching: he studies in Heidelberg, Germany, for a year; he gave the Rejebian Sermons at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas for Holy Week; he went to Bristol, England, as Guest Pastor of Horfield Baptist Church for one month; he served as president of the American Academy of Homiletics; he gave the Payton Lectures on Preaching at Sourthen Methodist University and was Preacher to the University, presiding every Sunday at the chapel service there; he was constantly asked to preach at various churches and give workshops throughout the United States.
In 1976, he was asked to become the president of West Virginia Wesleyan College, the alma mater of his undergraduate years. He served for one year and then deemed it best to return to his first love, which was teaching and preaching. This decision took him back to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, as Professor of Preaching. He also became an interim pastor of the First Baptist Church in Evanston during this time.
Sleeth moved to Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, in 1981, to assume the position of Professor of Preaching. He remained busy with his teaching, preaching, workshops, book reviews, writing, and public speaking. He participated, as well, in a radio program for a Lenten series in 1983, and wrote numerous short articles. It was during this time that he finished his seventh book for publication.
Dr. Sleeth was a member of several professional organizations including the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, the American Academy of Homiletics, and the West Virginia United Methodist Conference. He was listed in Who’s Who in Methodist, Who’s Who in the Methodist Church, and Who’s Who in America. After a brief illness, Dr. Sleeth died on April 11, 1985, in Denver, Colorado.