B. J. Stiles

B.J. Stiles. Photo by John Pull.

B.J. Stiles. Photo by John Pull.

In his more than 40 years of civic and professional commitments, B.J. Stiles has often been in the vanguard of providing creative and successful societal and organizational responses to an impressive array of critical and often controversial efforts focusing on access to social justice.

As a communicator, interpreter and award-winning editor of motive magazine based in Nashville, TN, in the tumultuous 1960s, Stiles pushed and prodded his readers and others to stay abreast of the cataclysmic cultural changes of that era. He did so armed with a theological degree from Southern Methodist University, a long history of student activism, and a firm conviction that prevailing customs and societal norms both constrained and often punished those who dared to be different. He took a leave of absence from motive in 1968 to join the staff of the Robert Kennedy for President Campaign.

Following Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, he accepted an invitation to go to South Africa to evaluate how business and economic forces in that apartheid country could become more strategically involved in effecting political and social change. Upon his return to the U.S., the Kennedy family and close friends invited him to relocate to Washington, DC, to design and launch the Kennedy Fellows program. He did so in 1969.

In the ensuing decade, Stiles joined The Urban Institute, where he launched and directed an impressive record of documenting how socioeconomic research could and would address such emerging phenomenon as female-headed families, urban culture and housing, and early efforts to reformulate understandings of urban transportation and environmental impact. Early in the Carter-Mondale Administration, he became Deputy Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for three years directed NEH support for state humanities councils.

With the election of Ronald Reagan, Stiles was required to transit out of federal service and subsequently undertook the challenge of reformulating the communications and public affairs functions of the Council on Foundations under the leadership of Jim Joseph, who subsequently became Bill Clinton’s Ambassador to South Africa. Early in the 1980s, Stiles learned of the emerging ravages of what was soon to be recognized as the HIV/AIDS crisis and elected to abandon his professional career to join the rag-tag warriors experiencing and trying to manage this unprecedented challenge to science, public policy, and disease management.

In tandem with many others, Stiles helped stimulate an impressive array of public-private sector responses to the epidemic and to the formidable stigmas and barriers which ostracized, punished, and held captive thousands of individuals, families, employers, and public officials. His op-ed pieces in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and countless speeches and public appearances evoked favorable responses, leading in 1987 to the founding of the National Leadership Coalition on AIDS, a business and labor addressing AIDS as a workplace and business challenge and opportunity. In the ensuing years, Stiles and his colleagues addressed international AIDS conferences, and he accepted invitations to go to Japan, Thailand, India and elsewhere to help other countries and regions consider how best to address the multiple challenges of AIDS in their own settings.

Upon his retirement in 1999, he relocated to San Francisco where he has continued to be engaged in a variety of health care and philanthropic initiatives, including HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, and women’s health, and has often addressed lung cancer as a particular challenge for women. Throughout all of these endeavors, he has worked to engineer effective ways to bring together community activists, health care professionals, and others to form support for public policies and media attention focusing on needs of the under-served. He is a co-founder and current board member of Better Community Health, an Atlanta-based nonprofit promoting evidence-based programs focusing on prevention information and programs at the community level.

Stiles, as a father and grandfather, is very attentive to the realities and needs of parents, school teachers and administrators, and health care professionals to stay in the vanguard of creating and promoting sound, effective and user-friendly ways to help address the increasingly complex and significant challenges which affect the lives and future of young people and their families.

He welcomes the opportunity to turn his attention, once again, to motive magazine, this time to its history, and its legacy.