Black Alumni Leadership Council
The Black Alumni Leadership Council was created to provide counsel to Boston University and the Alumni Association to help strengthen the University in its entirety by establishing productive interaction among black alumni, students, faculty, and staff. The council will channel its efforts toward broadening opportunities for black communities at Boston University, and maximizing black alumni participation in the life and support of the University.
From its inception, Boston University was conceived as a place of tolerance, opportunity, and hope.
Because of this founding principle, black students were welcomed here for many decades when they were rejected elsewhere. Leaders of the civil rights movement—most notably Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, HON’59)—found their voices here. And we are a better University because of the diversity of thought and experience we have long enjoyed on our campuses.
BU’s black community has created a story that’s worth remembering, assessing, and celebrating—even as its next chapters are being written. Learn more about BU’s Black Alumni Legacy.
Karen Holmes Ward (COM'77, HON'19), Chair
Karen Holmes Ward is the Director of Public Affairs and Community Services as well as host and executive producer of CityLine, WCVB-TV’s award-winning weekly magazine program which addresses the accomplishments, concerns and issues facing people of color living in Boston and its suburbs. Many notables including Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o, Octavia Spencer, Lou Gossett and Denzel Washington as well as Oscar nominees Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oprah Winfrey and Taraji P. Henson have been interviewed by Holmes Ward for CityLine. CityLine has been a recipient of the Associated Press Massachusetts/Rhode Island ‘Best’ Public Affairs Program and numerous Emmy nominations.
Holmes Ward also oversees WCVB’s public service and community outreach efforts including the station’s work on Extreme Makeover: My Hometown and Five Fixer Upper raising awareness about the need for affordable housing in the Greater Boston area, and spearheaded WCVB’s first-of-its-kind web-based initiative, Commonwealth 5 promoting philanthropy by matching viewers and donors with non-profits via the Internet. CommonWealth 5 was nominated for a National Emmy Award. WCVB’s community service efforts during and following the Boston Marathon attack were honored with a National Association of Broadcasters ‘Service to Community in Television’ award.
A graduate of Boston University’s School of Public Communications (now COM) , Karen has received numerous awards for her work in the community including the Boston Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Leaders Award; National Association of Black Journalists Region I Journalist of the Year; Big Sister of Greater Boston Achievement Award; Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts President’s Award; YWCA Cambridge ‘Tribute to Outstanding Women’; Women of Courage and Conviction Award from the Greater Boston Section National Council of Negro Women, Inc. ; MassVote ‘Champions of Democracy’; the Salvation Army’s ‘Others’ Award: NAACP Boston ‘Ida B. Wells Barnett’ Award; the ‘Silver Circle’ Lifetime Achievement Award from the Boston/New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; Massachusetts Broadcasters Lifetime Achievement Award and has received honorary doctorates from Merrimack College, Cambridge College and Boston University.
Maureen Alphonse-Charles (CAS'85)
Maureen Alphonse-Charles is a Managing Director of Koya Leadership Partners. With significant expertise across sectors and functions, Maureen has led complex executive search, consulting, finance and operations efforts for a variety of institutions. Her work spans both the nonprofit and the private sectors, and includes organizations such as CalPERS, CalSTRS, City Year, Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of MA Bay, YW, JP Morgan and Deloitte.
She is a pioneer in diversity, equity and inclusion work, and has broken tremendous barriers in the Boston area. As the first African-American President of The Boston Club, she founded and chaired its Diversity & Inclusion Committee and is continuing to do important work in that role.
Most recently, Maureen was the Senior Vice President & COO of The Partnership, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in working with organizations in all sectors to build racially and ethnically diverse leadership pipelines, offering leadership development programs and customized consulting services to improve diversity performance in a global marketplace. Prior to joining The Partnership, Maureen served as Vice President of Talent Acquisition at City Year where she led several leadership searches. Alphonse-Charles brings more than two decades of experience at top search firms, including Horton International, LLC and Whitehead Mann Pendleton James.
As an active participant in many civic, business and community affairs, Maureen was recently honored by the Women of the Harvard Club as one of Boston’s Most Influential Women and by Boston Business Journal as a Local Woman of Influence. She has also been twice nominated as a top recruitment expert by Boston’s Women’s Business Journal.
Maureen also serves as a member of the University Advisory Board at BU and sits on the Board of Advisors for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and on the boards of The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. Maureen holds a BA from Boston University (magna cum laude) and an MALD from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
Orlando Bagwell (COM'74,'77)
Orlando Bagwell’s work represents some of the industry’s most influential films about the civil rights movement and the history of American race relations. He is best known for producing and directing Citizen King, a PBS documentary about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, HON’59), and Eyes on the Prize, the 14-part series about the civil rights movement. He also produced and directed Roots of Resistance: The Story of the Underground Railroad, Malcolm X: Make It Plain, and Frederick Douglass: When the Lion Wrote History.
Bagwell is a cofounder and former director at the Ford Foundation, where he led the Freedom of Expression unit and served as the director of JustFilms, a foundation-wide initiative to support and inform social justice documentaries in Ford Foundation offices around the world. At UC Berkeley, Bagwell is the director of the documentary program. Bagwell earned a bachelor’s degree in film from Boston University and continued to receive a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University.
Source: UC Berkeley School of Journalism.
Farrah Belizaire (Sargent'11, MET'13)
Farrah Belizaire is a 2011 graduate of Sargent College, where she earned a BS in Health Science and a 2013 graduate of MET, where she earned an MS in Administrative Studies – concentrating in innovation and technology. During her undergraduate years, Farrah held various positions in Umoja, BU’s Black Student Union, and was Vice President of the Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. As an alumna, Farrah became a founding member of Boston University’s Young Alumni of Color Network. In 2014, Farrah received one of four “Alumni Volunteer of the Year” awards.
Currently, Farrah serves as Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice Program Officer at MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences. In this role, Farrah supports BCS’s efforts to impact the pipeline; collaborate with leadership and staff to address community concerns; help coach/advise faculty and staff through conversations, workshops and other learning opportunities to foster an equitable, inclusive culture; and help evaluate departmental progress by tracking qualitative and quantitative data related to its goals.
Farrah has previously worked in diversity and inclusion roles at Boston University School of Medicine to develop and implement programs and strategies that promote diversity and inclusion as it relates to recruitment and retention of underrepresented student in Graduate Medical Sciences; and at Massachusetts General Hospital prior to that, supporting residents, fellows and faculty underrepresented in medicine, and has also worked in clinical trials recruitment, where she led various outreach, marketing and advertising campaigns to enroll special populations into clinical research studies.
Alongside her past work in pharma and academia, Farrah is passionate about building communities for young adults of color and enjoys hosting social events for urban young professionals through her company, LiteWork Events.
Cornell Brooks (STH'87, HON'15 )
Reverend Cornell William Brooks, Esq. (STH’87, HON’15) has been a visiting professor of Social Ethics, Law, and Justice Movements at Boston University. Formerly the president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Rev. Brooks previously served as executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, was a trial attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was the 1998 Democratic Nominee for the US House of Representatives for the 10th District of Virginia, was the senior counsel of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and served as the president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. He has authored several published articles and essays, and also serves as a regular contributor for CNN, providing analysis and commentary on public affairs, civil rights and social ethics. His appearances include The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, CNN Newsroom, and New Day.
Nadia Chamblin-Foster (SSW'97)
Nadia Chamblin-Foster currently serves as a leadership coach and works with public school districts across the Commonwealth to ensure successful college & career pathway implementation and educational equity & inclusion. Nadia has consulted and worked in various leadership roles at Tufts Health Plan, Steward Healthcare, LLC, Boston University, Boston Public Schools, and Bentley University.
Beyond the breadth of over 15 years of professional experience in corporate and foundation relations, community health, non-profit management, and education reform, Nadia serves on the Boston University Alumni Association. Nadia also serves on the Cambridge Retirement, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra ICP program and Boston Children’s Museum Boards.
Nadia holds a Master of Social Work with a concentration in non-profit management from Boston University.
Allison J. Davis (CGS'73, COM'75)
Allison J. Davis is the Acting Executive Director of Arts Horizons, a position she’s held since 2014. In that capacity, she is responsible for guiding the nearly four-decade-old organization into its next phase. This includes overseeing the administration, programs, and strategic plan of the organization. Other key duties include fundraising, marketing, and community outreach.
Before her appointment to lead Arts Horizons, Davis was the Director of Communications at the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a scholarship and Mentoring and Leadership Program that awards four-year college scholarships to academically gifted students of color with financial need. In that capacity, Davis was responsible for managing and directing the foundation’s internal and external communications. She also developed public relations initiatives, created communication strategies, and served as the media contact for the organization. In addition, Davis was responsible for its extensive website and all of its digital content including its social networks. Davis returned to the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) to coordinate marketing for the movie 42. Her previous position at JRF was COO.
In 2009, Davis took a position at the historic Riverside Church, where she led a team that produced both external and internal communications as well as provided technical services for Riverside. She also served as producer for some of the church’s most successful programs including “Maya Angelou and Friends” and the funeral/memorial services of Percy Sutton and Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary. In addition, her expertise in crisis communications helped turn around the church’s negative media.
From 1997 to 2004, Davis served as Senior Vice President-Creative of CBS/Dunbar Productions. Dunbar, a company founded in 1997 by Bryant Gumbel in partnership with CBS, provided creative and production services for documentaries and live, taped, or live-to-tape events and series, as well as new media projects.
In 2007, Davis started her own video production company. Coopty Productions has produced videos for Say Yes to Education (under a Ford Foundation grant), the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the Links-Raritan Valley, and several other non-profit organizations.
Davis served as Executive Producer of MSNBC on the internet, a joint venture between NBC News and Microsoft (1994–97). At the same time, she developed, wrote, and produced The Scholastic-NBC News Video, a supplement to Scholastic News and Jr. Scholastic (1993-97). Davis served as a writer and producer for NBC News’ Today (1984-94), as well as a producer for the NBC News broadcasts Monitor (1983), First Camera (1984) and NBC Nightly News (1981-83). Prior to joining NBC News, Davis served as an on-air investigative reporter and producer for WBZ in Boston and KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh.
Davis is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, serving as its first Parliamentarian and later as its Vice President. In 2016, she was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame. Davis sits on several boards including Poets and Writers, and Teaneck, New Jersey’s Parks, Playgrounds and Recreation Advisory Board. She was on the founding board of the National Visionary Leadership Project, an oral history project established by Camille Cosby. She has been an adjunct professor at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, Howard University’s School of Communications, and the City College of New York.
Davis is a contributor to the book Global News Perspectives on the Information Age, edited by Tony Silvia (©2000 Iowa State University Press). Her chapter titled, “Bridging the Digital Divide: Leading the Disenfranchised into the Information Age,” has been widely quoted. She was also part of the video production team for the Independent Lens documentary The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights and a recent mobile application she developed and produced recently won second place in the Eastern Region Conference of the Links, Inc., a service organization of over 10,000 women of color.
A judge for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (News & Documentaries), Davis has also received numerous awards and honors, including two Women in Communications Awards (1986 and 1998) and several Emmy nominations. Davis also received Boston University’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009, and has received the University’s Alumni Award for Service to Profession in 1997 and again in 2000.
Allison Davis was born in New York City. She was graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in journalism. Davis and her husband, Robert Wright, live in Teaneck, N.J. They are the parents of two sons.
Bill Duke (CFA'66)
Duke Media Entertainment, led by actor, director, producer, writer, and humanitarian Bill Duke, is dedicated to bringing quality edutainment to audiences around the globe. Formerly Yagya Productions, Duke Media has successfully produced critically acclaimed film and television content for more than 30 years. Additionally, Duke Media is in process of expanding the brand to involve itself in the development of new media technologies: e.g., cellphone apps, games, and virtual world experiences. Since the early 1970s, Bill Duke, along with industry veterans Michael Shultz and Gordon Parks, have long paved the way for African Americans in the industry.
Mr. Duke excels in front of and behind the camera. His acting and directing credits are extensive and include stints on such ground breaking television series as Falcon Crest, Fame, Hill Street Blues, Knotts Landing, Dallas, and New York Undercover. His feature credits include Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Get Rich or Die Trying, Deep Cover, Hoodlum, Predator, Menace II Society and Not Easily Broken, to name a few. He has recently completed production on, Blexicans, a new television pilot that takes a comedic look at a mixed-race family. His documentaries, Dark Girls and Light Girls, both NAACP Image Award nominees, aired on OWN and were two of the most successful documentaries on the network.
Bill Duke’s invaluable contributions to the industry have been recognized by both his peers and the entertainment community. Appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the National Endowment of Humanities, he was appointed to the Board of the California State Film Commission by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and he has been honored by the Directors Guild of America with a Lifetime Achievement Tribute.
Mr. Duke’s humanitarian efforts are equally important. He devotes his time to charity and not for profit organizations that enhance our human experience. He is on the Board of Directors of Educating Young Minds and recently established the Duke Media Foundation, which has joined forces with the New York Film academy, to teach media arts and financial literacy to underprivileged youth.
Carmen Fields (COM'73)
Carmen Fields has been a fixture in the Greater Boston journalism community for over 30 years. Her experience includes both print and broadcast journalism; journalism education and media relations. She has also served as community relations director for National Grid, the second largest electric and gas utility in the United States.
When the news program she anchored at WGBH with Christopher Lydon was cancelled in the early 1990s, Fields became the press secretary for Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II, where her astute media practices helped establish his name and share the work of the office with the public. After a five year tenure, that included Martin’s first successful political campaign, she became Director of Communications for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, the largest funding entity of human services outside state government.
She is currently producer and host of the monthly public affairs program called Higher Ground at WHDH-TV 7/Boston.
Among many awards and citations for professional and civic service, Carmen Fields was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Salem State College in 1992. The Needham resident is married to Lorenz J. Finison, PhD. They have a daughter who is a 2016 Boston University graduate.
Walter Earl Fluker, Ph.D., (GRS'88, STH'88)
Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Ethical Leadership
Rev. Dr. Walter Fluker was born in Vaiden, Mississippi and raised in Chicago, Illinois where he attended public schools. He served in the United States Army as a Chaplain’s Assistant from 1971-1973. He received his BA degree in philosophy and biblical studies from Trinity College in 1977, and an MDiv degree in 1980 from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Fluker completed his PhD degree in social ethics at Boston University, in 1988. He retired from the Boston University School of Theology in June 2020.
He served as pastor of the historic St. John’s Congregational Church, UCC in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1981-1986. In 1986, Fluker was university chaplain and assistant professor of religion at Dillard University. He became assistant professor of Christian ethics at Vanderbilt Divinity School, and assistant pastor at First Baptist Church. He became assistant professor of Christian ethics at Vanderbilt Divinity School, and assistant pastor at First Baptist Church in Capitol Hill, in 1987. In 1991, Fluker was named dean of black church studies and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial professor of theology and black church studies at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. In 1992, Fluker became editor of the Howard Thurman Papers Project. He served as director, National Resource Center for the Development of Ethical Leadership from the Black Church Tradition from CRCD in 1993-1998. In 1998, Fluker joined Morehouse College as executive director of The Leadership Center (renamed the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership), The Coca Cola professor of leadership studies and professor of philosophy and religion.
In 2004, Fluker served as visiting professor for the University of Capetown Graduate School of Business, Distinguished Lecturer in the International Human Rights Exchange Program and faculty at The Salzburg Global Seminar, Salzburg, Austria. Fluker was a distinguished speaker for the US Embassy in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria; Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban, South Africa, China; and India. Having served visiting professorships at the Harvard College and Divinity School and Candler School of Theology; and visiting scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Columbia Theological Seminary. Fluker joined the Boston University School of Theology faculty as the Martin Luther King, Jr. professor of ethical leadership and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Initiative for the Development of Ethical Leadership in 2010. He consulted for the Democratic Leadership Council National Conversation, Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Program, the Department of Education, the Department of State, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Georgia State Superintendents’ Association, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
Paul Francisco (CGS'91)
Paul is the Chief Diversity Officer as well as Head of Workforce Development programs at State Street Corporation. In these roles, Paul leads the implementation of State Street’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies globally. He also oversees the execution of workforce development strategies in the US.
Prior to joining state Street, Paul was a Managing Director and cofounder of Foster & Francisco LLC, an executive search and diversity consulting firm based in Boston. Previous to Foster & Francisco he led recruitment and Relationship Management functions at Bank of America and Fidelity Investments respectively.
In addition, Paul currently serves on a number of nonprofit boards including; The Base Inc. where he chairs the Nominations Committee, the Bentley University School of Business, Business Advisory Council, The Posse Foundation Boston Leadership Council, he serves on the Board of ABEKAM Inc., he is also a Board Member of the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, a member of the Posse Boston Leadership Council, and The Bottom Line Boston’s Board of Visitors. Paul also serves on the Boston University Black Alumni Leadership Council, and is one of the founding members of Boston Children’s Hospital Milagros Para Niños Latino Advisory Council. He is an active member of the Patriots Alumni Association and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. Paul also served on the National Board of ALPFA, the largest Latino professional organization in the US from 2010-215, and as ALPFA Boston’s Chapter President from 2008-2010.
In March of 2017 Paul was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to serve on the Black Advisory Board Commission.
His recognitions include the 2007 “Top 40 under 40” by the Boston Business Journal, the 2007, 2013 & 2014 100 Most Influential Latinos in Massachusetts by El Planeta Newspaper Powermeter, 2008 Volunteer of the Year by American Training Centers., 2008 Arnold Z. Rosoff Award for Individual Achievement, 2009 Men’s Health Champion Award from the Whittier St. Health Center, Boston Business Journal’s 2009 “20 on the Move” which recognizes Hispanic Executives making a difference in Boston, as well as Color Magazine’s 2009 All Inclusive Award for Leadership. Most recently he was recognized by Governor Deval Patrick with a Certificate of Achievement for the work done on behalf of the Hispanic Community in Massachusetts.
He is also the recipient of the Boston National Black MBA Association’s 2014 Corporate Leadership Award.
Paul is a graduate of Boston University with a BA in Political Science, a graduate of the UMASS-Boston Emerging Leaders Program for the Center for Collaborative Leadership. In addition, he is a graduate of The Partnership Inc. Associates, Fellows, and Next Generation Executive programs.
Joel Christian Gill (CFA’04)
Joel Christian Gill is a cartoonist and historian who speak nationally on the importance of sharing stories. He wrote the words and drew the pictures in Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride(published by Lion Forge, 2019) and the award-winning graphic novel series Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History, as well as, Tales of The Talented Tenth from Fulcrum Publishing. He has worked for diverse clients including The New Yorker, NBC, the Boston Globe and has written for The Huffington Post. His latest work is a memoir chronicling how children deal with abuse and trauma: Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence (Oni Press January 2020), and is currently adapting Dr. Ibram X Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America into a graphic novel from Ten Speed Press. He is an Associate Professor of Illustration at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Gill has dedicated his life to creating stories to build connections with readers through empathy, compassion, and ultimately humanity. He received his MFA from Boston University and his BA from Roanoke College.
Malcolm Harden (CGS '91, Questrom'93)
Mr. Harden is Vice President of Strategic Operations at CGI Federal – the government service arm of the world’s 5th largest IT consulting company. Mr. Harden is responsible for consistently growing CGI Federal’s capability to deliver leading-edge technology solutions. He also serves as a board member of the American Council for Technology’s Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) and maintains a visible presence in the U. S. Federal IT community. Mr. Harden maintains governance and oversight for professional development programs for ACT-IAC.
After graduating from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, Mr. Harden began his career as computer programmer, exploring technical, business process and managerial paths towards a rewarding career in technology. Holding both Black Belt Certified Enterprise Architect and OMG Certified Expert in BPM Series 2 certifications, Mr. Harden specializes in applying innovative technologies and technical products to drive more efficient, effective and friendly citizen interaction with U.S. Federal mission areas. He is also a Fellow of the Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute and is the immediate past chairman of Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Health Technology Committee.
Earlier in his career, he served as CGI Federal’s Vice President, Innovation Programs and Chief Architect for Health and Compliance Programs.
He resides in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife and two sons, and maintains faith that this is the year he coaches his older son’s basketball team to a county championship.
Derrick Harkins (COM'80)
Currently, Rev. Dr. Harkins serves as Senior Vice President for Innovation in Public Programs at Union Theological Seminary. Harkins develops programming aimed primarily at those not enrolled in Union’s degree programs. This includes continuing and online education, public events, and the work of the institutes and initiatives housed at Union. Most recently, these initiatives have included outreach about Islamophobia, LGBTQ public policy and intersectionality issues, and criminal justice reform.
Dr. Harkins previously served as National Director for Faith Outreach for the Democratic Party, as well as Senior Pastor of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington DC, and also as Director of Faith Outreach for Enroll America. In addition, he has been an informal advisor to the Obama Administration on faith related issues, and has been a guest lecturer on the church and social action at a number of colleges and universities, including Bucknell, Cornell, Iona College, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, Fox News, and NPR. An active voice in the debate for comprehensive immigration reform, he has worked to expand the combined immigration reform efforts of the African American and Hispanic communities. He has been extensively engaged in relief and development work in Rwanda, Burkina Faso, and Jamaica, and has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Faith in Public Life, and Sojourners, and is currently a member of the Board of Odyssey Television Networks.
Russell E. Holmes (ENG'92)
Elected in November 2010, Russell Holmes represents Massachusetts’ Sixth Suffolk District, which includes a portion of the communities of Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain.
As a community leader, Russell has worked passionately on issues related to local economic development, education, and public transportation. He chaired the Mattapan Library Task Force, which brought Boston’s first new public library since 2001.
In 2007, Russell chaired the Mattapan Economic Development Initiative (MEDI) and was an instrumental force in developing a new set of building codes to attract businesses to the community. More recently, the team won a federal Main Streets designation for Mattapan Square. This accomplishment will allow the community to tap into city funds to repair storefronts and improve buildings. In addition, the community will develop a holistic marketing strategy for the surrounding business district.
Representative Holmes enjoys volunteering. In addition to teaching Sunday school at the church of Christ in Roxbury, Representative Holmes has mentored 18 to 22 year-olds, serving as a male role model and coach on the transition from adolescence to adulthood. He has tutored elementary, high school, and college students on academic and life skills and has served as a Big Brother in Big Brother Big Sisters. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1992, and he received his MBA from Northeastern in 2000. He currently works as a Certified Financial Planner with Baystate Financial Services. When he is away from the State House, you can usually find Representative Holmes working on local initiatives, teaching Sunday school with his wife Sheree, and knocking on doors to listen to the concerns of his constituents.
Russell Hornsby (CFA'96)
Russell Hornsby is an American actor who has stared in ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights,” HBO’s “In Treatment,” and as Detective Hank Griffin in the NBC series “Grimm.” Born and raised in California, Russell’s interest in acting began in a school production of “The Wiz” where he played the role of Scarecrow. After studying theater at BU, Russell honed his craft at the British American Drama Academy. Upon his return to the United States, Russell was active in New York’s theatre scene performing in stage adaptions of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Six Degrees of Separation.”
Russell moved to LA where he made his first screen debut as a food truck assistant in an episode of “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” in 1993. His first film appearance was in the romantic comedy “Woo.” In 2000, Russell appeared in “Train Ride,” a film written and directed by BU alumnus Rel Dowdell (COM’96). Russell’s film appearances include: “Fences,” “Meet the Parents,” “Big Fat Liar,” “Keep the Faith, Baby,” and “Milk and Honey.”
In 2018, Russell starred in the critically-acclaimed drama film “The Hate U Give.” He received a “Black Reel Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie or Limited Series” for his portrayal of Isaiah Butler in the Netflix miniseries “Seven Seconds” (2018).
Duane Jackson (MET'76)
Business Owner in New York City since 1989.Village Trustee of Buchanan NY since 2012. President of the Golden Decade Foundation. Boston University Alumni group.
Pauline Jennett (STH'05, SED’17)
Pauline Jennett is a non-profit administrator with Rosie’s Place. She completed a two-year Chaplain Resident program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where she received a Templeton Transforming Chaplaincy Research Grant to teach research to chaplain residents. She has been a guest speaker and lecturer at Beth Israel Hospital, Tufts University Experimental College, Villanova University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, and Harvard Medical School.
A former associate director of admissions from Harvard Business School, Ms. Jennett evaluated and interviewed domestic and international applicants. Prior to joining The MBA Exchange as a Principal Consultant, she served as director of recruitment and admissions for non-profit career development organization Management Leadership for Tomorrow, an alumni officer for Boston University, and in sales and marketing management roles with Coca-Cola, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and IBM. Ms. Jennett earned her MBA from The Wharton School, where she was a member of the Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory group and studied at Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa (IE). She has a Master of Divinity degree cum laude from Boston University, an Ed. D from Boston University School of Education, and a Bachelor of Business administration degree from Baruch College where she was a Baruch Scholar. She was on the Board of the BU School of Theology Dean’s Advisory Board and is a Paul Smith’s College Trustee. She has traveled to 36 countries on 5 continents and is conversant in Spanish.
Antoinette Leatherberry (ENG'85)
Antoinette (Tonie) Leatherberry is a Principal in Deloitte’s Risk and Financial Advisory practice. Leatherberry has had a distinguished career with the firm, spanning over 26 years. She serves Fortune 100 Manufacturing, Retail and Consumer Business clients. She is responsible for supporting her key accounts across Strategy, Enterprise Risk, Human Capital, and Technology services. A recognized leader, she is well respected by her clients and peers and is regularly tapped for her perspective and expertise.
Tonie is the Board Relations Leader for the Risk and Financial Advisory practice. In this role, she is responsible for marketplace positioning and opportunities through innovation, thought leadership, and engagement that address the needs of Corporate Board Directors and senior executives.
Tonie is instrumental in developing and delivering two important Board-related initiatives: the Board Leadership Forum and NextGen CEO program. Tonie has served some of our largest clients, and currently serves as the Global Lead Client Service Partner and Advisory Partner for Deloitte’s crown jewel clients in the chemical and life sciences industries. Leatherberry maintains expertise in Information Technology Strategy. She also serves as a fellow with the Chief Information Officer Services Program, providing services, advice, and coaching to technology executives. She has authored articles on IT, Strategy, Diversity, and Innovation.
She has previously served on Deloitte Consulting’s Board of Directors and as Deloitte Consulting’s Chief Inclusion Officer. Under her leadership, Deloitte Consulting received recognition for Excellence in Diversity by Consulting Magazine. Tonie serves as the President of Deloitte Foundation, whose mission is to drive initiatives that develop future leaders through education. She currently serves on several advisory boards, including the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), Widener University Board of Trustees, and Boston University, College of Engineering Advisory Committee and StemConnector’s Innovation Task Force. She has also previously served on the boards of the Network of Executive Women, the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC) and Center for the Advocacy, Rights, and Interests of the Elderly.
Tonie has received numerous accolades, most notably as one of the top 25 consultants by Consulting Magazine and by Black Enterprise as one of the Most Powerful Women in Business. Tonie has also been recognized as one of Pennsylvania’s Top 50 Women in Business, The Network Journal’s annual list of 25 Influential Black Women in Business, Savoy magazine as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America, and one of the Top 100 under 50 Leader by Diversity MBA Magazine.
Tonie holds an MBA in Operations from Northeastern University and a BSM. with a concentration in Manufacturing Engineering from Boston University.
Cleveland O'Neal (COM'78)
Cleveland O’Neal III is President and CEO of Connection III Entertainment Corp., an award winning, Emmy-nominated producer/distributor of television programming and motion pictures.
Currently, Connection III produces and distributes four nationally syndicated, weekly television series including the 12th season of Made in Hollywood, a behind-the-screen look at stars and directors presenting their latest movies; the 11th season of Made in Hollywood: Teen Edition, which explores media careers on and off-camera; the 3rd season of Made in Hollywood Now, showcasing what’s available on any screen, and the 6th season of Live Life and Win, which features inspirational teen success stories. Connection III is one of very few African American–owned media production and distribution companies specializing in national broadcast syndication in the US. O’Neal, who creates and develops the company’s various projects while serving as executive producer, is proud of his company’s track record of being the first to bring diversity to a variety of media platforms. Connection III’s library of properties includes What About Your Friends? (CBS-TV/HBO), the first African American after-school special in network television history; Phat Beach (Orion Pictures), the first hip-hop beach movie in theatrical motion picture history; What About Your Friends: Weekend Get-Away (UPN), the first multicultural teen “movie of the week” in primetime television history; and Christmas at Water’s Edge starring Keshia Knight Pulliam (Cosby) and Tom Bosley (Happy Days), which had its world premiere in national syndication and its cable premiere on Lifetime.
Obi Onyeagoro (ENG'98)
Obi is an international investment and finance executive focused on principal, debt, and corporate finance in developed and emerging markets as well as infrastructure projects. Obi is also focused on the global energy industry.
Obinna is currently Head of Standard Chartered’s Financial Sponsors Coverage, African, Middle East & European team partnering with M&A, leveraged finance, project finance, structured trade finance, sector, regional, and product colleagues to deliver investment ideas and extend SCB’s platform to Financial & Strategic Investors and their investee/portfolio companies.
Obi was previously a Director in Standard Chartered Bank’s UK & Africa Leveraged Finance team, and worked with Deutsche Bank’s Energy Advisory Group in Houston and New York within the firm’s investment banking division.
Obi has an MBA from Harvard Business School, a Masters in Education from Harvard University, and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Boston University. He currently sits on the boards of non-profit Living Measure (a philanthropic organization, which he founded, focused on global causes). He is also on the board of the State University of New York at Purchase and the board of the Harlem Community Development Corporation (affiliate of the Empire State Development Corporation) appointed by NY State Governor Paterson. Obi is a also a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Angela Pitter (ENG'86, MET'93)
Angela Pitter is Founder and CEO at LiveWire Collaborative, a digital strategy consulting firm. An accomplished technology professional, Angela brings over 20 years of experience in high-tech and extensive experience leading global teams and products to the market. Since founding her company in 2012, Angela focuses on digital marketing strategy and is known for building comprehensive solutions that expand and strengthen customer engagements. LiveWire Collaborative helps business owners and executives to tap into digital marketing solutions that unleash their brand’s full potential and to use social media to connect, collaborate, and convert their target communities.
Additionally, LiveWire Collaborative specializes in social media training, both in-class and online. Hundreds of CEOs, business owners, consultants, and coaches worldwide have attended their signature LinkedIn classes, and recently, Zoom training and virtual events have become one of their more popular services. An accomplished keynote speaker, Angela has spoken at the Massachusetts Conference for Women and was recently featured on Chronicle, WCVB-TV5 social media segment.
Currently, Angela serves the Newton Needham Regional Chamber of Commerce in many capacities, including Board of Directors, Chair of the Ambassador Committee, Co-Chair of the Creative/Digital Marketing Affinity Group, and a member of the Chamber Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Also, an active member of NSBE Boston Professionals, she has hosted their signature gala and has led several professional career workshops.
From 2011-2017, Angela served three terms on the City of Newton School Committee (only the 2nd Black elected official in the city since 1978). While there, she worked tirelessly to pass an override to fund three building projects and increasing enrollment. Additionally, she successfully advocated $1M in funding for elementary classroom computers and network upgrades. Finally, from 1990 – 2010, Angela was a member of the Newton METCO Scholarship Committee and chaired the Committee from 2005-2010; Now in existence for over 35 years, the Newton METCO Community Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance to deserving METCO seniors attending Newton Public Schools seeking to pursue a college or post-graduate education.
Angela is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and holds both her M.S. in Administration and B.S. in Computer Engineering from Boston University.
Jonathan Priester (COM'10)
Jonathan Priester is the Global Black Community Inclusion Lead at Google serving as a member of the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement team. At Google, Jonathan is responsible for the global advisory of the Black Googler Network (BGN), heading internal black community affairs and managing key partnerships externally in service of Google’s recruitment, retention and brand recognition goals.
Prior to his time at Google, Jonathan has had the opportunity to develop a strong background in digital marketing, merchandising and account management through a combination of digital roles at JCPenney Corporate and agency experience at BBDO, AMV BBDO and The Godwin Group.
Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Jonathan is a graduate of the Boston University College of Communication and The University of Texas at Dallas School of Arts and Humanities. With a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Master of Arts in Emerging Media and Communication respectively, Jonathan is trained in both branding and marketing disciplines.
An advocate for diversity and inclusion across fields, Jonathan served as a Co-Lead of the 2018 and 2019 ADCOLOR Advisory Board, an organization dedicated to tackling issues of inclusion and diversity across advertising, technology and creative industries. Jonathan is also an advisor to the executive board of Operations Crossroads Africa, a non-profit organization dedicated to building cross-cultural networks through service-based exchange trips in countries across Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean.
Lesley Ryan Miller (CGS’94, Wheelock’96)
Lesley Ryan Miller joins the Boston University Black Alumni Leadership Council with over 20 years of education experience both in the classroom as a teacher and as an administrator for the City of Boston. She is currently the Principal of the John Pierce K–8 School, a three-building public school campus in the heart of Brookline Village. In this role, she works with a talented team of teachers and administrators to ensure educational equity, optimal academic achievement and a safe campus for its 900 students.
Prior to taking on the Principal position at Pierce, Ms. Ryan Miller was Brookline’s Senior Director of Teaching and Learning, where she oversaw the K–8 curriculum in math, literacy, social studies, science, and world languages. Before joining the Public Schools of Brookline, Lesley served as the district Director of Teacher Development and Advancement for the Boston Public Schools following her 11 years as a kindergarten and first grade teacher—also in Boston.
Lesley holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education at Boston University’s School of Education, now Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Lesley, her husband, Harold, and daughter, Laila, live in Dorchester.
Sharon Ryan (Sargent'70)
Sharon Ryan has a history of volunteer work and community service, which includes leadership positions that support education, the arts, and social agencies serving the needs of families, children, and underrepresented minorities.
Mrs. Ryan has been a trustee and active alumna of Boston University. Over the years, she has served as a member of Student Affairs, Development, Governance, Executive, Athletic, Academic Affairs and Presidential Search committees. She cochaired the alumni campaign to restore Marsh Plaza. She is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.
As a resident of Minneapolis, Mrs. Ryan is the past President of the Breck Episcopal College Preparatory School, past Vice President of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation, Past chairperson of the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and currently on the Executive committee of The Children’s Theatre board of governors. Sharon is a member of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter of the Girl Friends, Inc.
Mrs. Ryan is married to Robert L. Ryan, retired Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Medtronic, Inc. They have two married adult children and three grandchildren. Their daughter Lesley is a 1996 graduate of Boston University’s School of Education. Two activities that she enjoys are needlepoint and traveling.
Richard Taylor (COM’71)
Richard currently holds dual professional assignments as the Chairman of the Taylor Smith Group where he manages multiple real estate business entities including a Development Company and their real estate Commercial Brokerage Company. Simultaneously, he serves as the Founding Director of the Center for Real Estate at Suffolk University. But Richard’s academic and professional business assignments only tell part of the story of his portfolio of interest. His current positions have leveraged his corporate business interests, his civic engagement activities and his public service. After graduating from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, he began his career at the internationally known Boston Consulting Group, providing strategic planning services to a wide range of industries at Fortune 500 companies. He has also served as Vice President for Development for the giant mutual fund company Fidelity where he worked to secure the development rights for the Commonwealth Pier property and the Commonwealth Flats. These locations are now occupied by the World Trade Center, the Seaport Hotel and the Fidelity office buildings. He was subsequently recruited to serve as Division Vice President for Central and Western Massachusetts where he led the sales, service and operations for all health insurance clients from Framingham to Pittsfield. His division managed over $400 million dollars in premiums. Richard was eventually promoted to Division Vice President for National Accounts managing in excess of $900 million in premium sales. He also chaired the Sales Compensation, Marketing, and Advertising Committees.
Richard has always had a calling for civic engagement and public service satisfying his desire to give back in gratitude for the opportunities that he has enjoyed professionally and personally. Politically he worked with Mel Miller’s campaign for Congress and when Joe Moakley was elected to Congress he organized Roxbury precincts on his behalf. His friendship with John O’Bryant led him to become the first Campaign Manager for John’s bid to get elected to the Boston School Committee. Governor Ed King appointed Richard to the MBTA Board of Directors and to the MBTA Pension Fund where he focused on renovating city bus terminals and MBTA maintenance facilities. Subsequently, he worked as a campaign organizer and supporter for Sen. Ed Brooke’s reelection bid. All of this business and civic experience led to his appointment by Gov. William F. Weld as Secretary of Transportation and Construction and Chairman of the Board of the MBTA. In this capacity he completed the federal and state approvals for the Big Dig, appointed businessman Stanley Miller to coordinate and manage the Bridge Design Review Committee that created the Bunker Hill/Lenny Zakim Bridge, restored Commuter Rail service from Worcester to Boston, initiated construction of the Old Colony Line, funded the total reconstruction of Dudley Station Bus Terminal and oversaw management of all capital and operating budgets for all modes of transportation in the Secretariat. Taylor still holds the record for securing the fastest Transportation Bond Bill to win approval by the Massachusetts State Legislature.
Public service and civic engagement have been a continuous thread in his life. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston where he worked with Fed President Dick Syron on the “redlining study” that transformed community banking in Boston. A longtime Board member of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, he also served as Chairman of the Board of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts and helped to bring the National Conference of the Urban League to Boston. He was the Founding President of the Minority Developers Association, past President of the Boston Ballet where he served as Chair of the Building Committee to build the current Ballet Studios on Clarendon Street. A former Chairman of the Partnership and former Trustee of his undergraduate alma mater Boston University, where he became the first Rhodes scholar in the history of the University. Additionally, he served as Trustee of Cambridge College and Adviser of Wentworth Institute of Technology. Richard has also served on the Board of Higher Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In recognition of his private sector successes and his public sector service Richard has been awarded two Honorary Degrees. He was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Engineering Technology by Wentworth Institute of Technology and the Honorary Doctor of Public Service from Bridgewater State College.
His public and private activities have been possible only with the support, guidance and assistance of his wife of over 40 years, Kathy. A friendship that began when she was a cheerleader at Boston College and Richard was a varsity basketball player at Boston University has blossomed with two wonderful adult children and two grandchildren. Both are praying for more grandchildren. They have lived in Newton for over 30 years and continue to enjoy summers with family and friends on Martha’s Vineyard.
Sonali Wilson (CGS'78, CAS'80)
Sonali currently serves as general counsel of Cleveland State University. She provides counsel to the University Board of Trustees and President on a wide variety of matters, including procurement and management contracts, educational partnership agreements, employment matters, student privacy issues, as well as real property and construction matters. She was instrumental in developing the new Office of University Compliance, which is part of her division and oversees the Office of Institutional Equity and the Office of Internal Audit. She joined the university in 1996 as a lecturer in the College of Law and in 1997 became assistant university legal counsel. She served as secretary to the Board of Trustees from 2000 until 2011, and was named general counsel in 2004. She served as the Cochair of the President’s Commission on the Conduct of Searches at the university, created to develop best practices for diversity in hiring at the university.