Black Professionals Of The Year

Hall of Fame: Black Professional of the Year Honorees

Ariane B. Kirkpatrick

Ariane Kirkpatrick was born in the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland. Her mother, Aramenta, was an educator and her father, Art, a car salesman. In 1969, Aramenta took her two young daughters, Ariane and Amonica, to protest at McDonald’s. At that time, the company did not allow Blacks or women to own franchises. Ariane left the protest with the impression that she wanted things to be different, and she also knew then that she wanted to be an entrepreneur, although she was too young to know what that meant.

In the 1970s, the Kirkpatrick’s moved to Warrensville Heights. Ariane graduated from Warrensville Heights High School in 1983 and earned her Associate of Arts from Cuyahoga Community College in 1990. A serial entrepreneur, Ariane started AKA Construction in the mid-1990s. (The company is named for her and her two sons, Ali and Kristopher.) AKA handled mostly residential projects but did some commercial work as well. Around the turn of the century, she opened and managed a corned beef restaurant while running AKA. But after six years in business, she closed both the original AKA Construction and the restaurant. Ariane even tried her hand at a graphic design and print company, which was short-lived. The young single mother of two sons struggled to find her path, but always knew she wanted to be in construction. That dream never died.

An opportunity came for Ariane to work for the City of Warrensville Heights as its Chief of Housing. Armed with experience from her first construction company, working for the City of Warrensville as its Chief of Housing, and the rare opportunity to take a high-profile job cleaning the future president’s airplane, Ariane decided she would try her hand at construction one more time. She left the City, and eventually moved in with her sister’s family to save money. With just 17 cents in her pocket, the single mother of two started AKA Construction Management in late 2009. This would be a life-changing moment.

“Risk taker is just who I am,” Ariane says. “I don’t think I would have been able to come this far without being one. How do we turn that risk into possibility?” Believe. The new AKA Team got its foot in the proverbial door primarily by cleaning up job sites. In the meantime, Ariane finished school at Cleveland State University, getting her Bachelor of Arts in Non-Profit Administration from the Levin College of Urban Affairs in 2010.

Early clients of the new AKA Team included the Cleveland Museum of Art, Flats East Bank, Eaton Corporation, CMHA Administration building and the Cleveland Medical Mart Convention Center. In 2013 when the Cleveland Clinic started a mentor/protégé program, construction management firm Whiting-Turner selected the AKA Team. That partnership has continued to grow, and the companies are celebrating 10 years of working together this year.

Ariane has been a longtime mentor to young people interested in getting into the construction industry, and has remained an activist as well, pushing the numerous benefits of equity and diversity in all her circles. Ariane serves on many boards, and if she wasn’t busy enough, she pursued majority ownership of a medical cannabis company, Harvest of OH, at Ali’s urging in 2017. After some legal and pandemic setbacks, Harvest of OH is vertically integrated – meaning the company has licenses to cultivate, process and dispense medical cannabis. Harvest dispensaries are in Columbus, Athens, and Beavercreek and the cultivation site is in Ironton, Ohio. Ariane is the only Black female to own a vertically integrated medical cannabis company in Ohio!

In her personal life, 11 years ago Ariane married the love of her life, Danny Couch, and gained two bonus daughters, Camille, and Jazmine along with sons Ali and Kri

Renee Tramble Richard, ESQ

Renee Richard is Interim President of Corporate College and Vice President of Legal Services and Risk Management (General Counsel) at Cuyahoga Community College. As President of Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College, Ms. Richard is responsible for leading a team in developing corporate training and business solutions in areas such as organizational effectiveness — leadership training, team building, change management, and supervisor training. She also oversees the implementation of corporate training in the areas of quality and continuous improvement programs and the provision of high-quality conference facility rentals.

As General Counsel, Ms. Richard and her team handle all in-house legal issues for the College, including all College governance matters and representation before the College’s Board of Trustees. In addition, Ms. Richard oversees the College’s Risk Management, Compliance, Internal Audit, Institutional Equity, and Records Management departments.

Ms. Richard joined the College after 20+ years of practicing law in several Cleveland corporate law firms. While practicing law she focused her practice on public law and public finance.

Renee currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of Care Alliance Health Center, and is a member of the Board of Directors of AES Management, dba Louisiana’s Popeye’s Chicken, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the YWCA of Greater Cleveland and Lee Road Baptist Church. She is a member of, and has been active in, the National Association of College and University Attorneys and the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. Ms. Richard is President of The Links, Incorporated, Cleveland Chapter and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Alpha Omega Chapter. She has served as a member of the Executive Committee and Finance Committee of the NAACP, Cleveland Branch and has served as the Branch’s Freedom Fund Dinner Chair for five years.

Ms. Richard is a certified public accountant (inactive) and holds a Juris Doctor from Cleveland Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University. Ms. Richard has received numerous awards, including the 2022 YWCA Women of Achievement, 2021 Smart Business Professional Women Award, the Crain’s 2021 Notable General Counsels Award and the 2021 YWCA Women of Professional Experience Award. She is a member of the Deloitte Board Ready Women 2021 cohort, the Private Directors Association and In Counsel with Women.

Renee has been married to Derrick Richard for over 30 years and is the mother of three adult children—Kelli Richard Davis, Evan Richard and Toshianna Richard.


Darrell L. McNair

Darrell L. McNair is President & Chief Executive Officer of the MVP Group of Companies, which
includes MVP Plastics, MVP Design and Engineering, and All Foam Products. A certified minority-owned privately held group of companies that provide injection molding services, mechanical
design engineering services, and distribution of foam products to the automotive, medical, industrial, and recreational industries and all five branches of the military with facilities in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Texas.

Darrell is an accomplished business owner and leader with diversified experience in the areas of
operations, strategy, and finance. He started his career working at Fortune 500 companies and small to mid-sized entrepreneurial ventures combining strong operational and financial control techniques with sound business judgment. A Honda-trained “Green Belt” gives him the tools to focus on process and efficiency improvements as he leads his companies.

His career spans several fields and includes various positions held at Ford and IBM, among several
others. He is an entrepreneur, having had ventures ranging from medical supply and home health
care services to construction and retail and he is passionate.

Darrell’s personal volunteer and philanthropic accomplishments demonstrate his commitment to leading through service. Board of Directors, Medical Mutual of Ohio, he serves as a member and past chair of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Port Authority Board of Directors, member of The President’s Council, member and past chair of Minority Business Financing Advisory Board, Trustee for University Hospitals, board member for Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), board member for Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Crain’s Business Diversity Council, Cleveland Federal Reserve Local Advisory Council and Board Member for Jumpstart and ECM Chemicals. Under Darrell’s leadership as Chairman of the Cleveland-based President’s Council, strategic partnerships were created with corporate and government entities thereby enhancing growth and wealth-creation opportunities for the minority business community.

Darrell is committed to inspiring vision, energy, and desire in others. He is an active member of
Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and he has a passion for working with
small businesses and mentoring young African American males.

He received his Bachelor’s degree from Kent State University and a Master’s of Business
Administration from Baldwin Wallace University.

Vanessa Whiting, Esq.

Vanessa L. Whiting, Esq. is the President of A.E.S. Management Corporation, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen franchisee in Northeast Ohio. (A.E.S.). A.E.S. employs over 350 Cuyahoga and Summit County residents at its fifteen (15) Popeyes locations, giving workforce experience to those in our community. After the sudden death of her husband Anthony E. Smith, the founder of A.E.S. Management Corp., Ms. Whiting took the helm and currently serve as CEO. Ms. Whiting is a prominent attorney in the Cleveland area and has extensive experience in economic and community development law, real estate law, tax credit law, and public finance. Ms. Whiting has been recognized by Northeast Ohio Live Magazine as one of the top 100 attorneys in the State of Ohio. Ms. Whiting began her 30 year legal career at the law firms of Bryan & Cave and Calfee, Halter & Griswold. She established her own firm in 1995 and practiced as a sole practitioner until 2007, when she became a partner at the law firm of Roetzel & Andress. She re-established her firm in 2011 and continued to assist her clients in revitalizing Cleveland’s neighborhoods. While practicing law, Ms. Whiting was licensed in the states of Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and the District of Columbia. She still maintains her Ohio license.

Ms. Whiting graduated cum laud with a B.S. degree in public policy from Duke University. She received an M.S. in urban affairs and public policy from Southern Illinois University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urban. Her interests include social justice, minority business development, community development, the arts, politics, education and health care.

Ms. Whiting is the current Board Chair of the Metro Health System. She established the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and chairs the Legal and Government Relations Committee and the Governance Committee. She also served as Board Secretary. Ms. Whiting is a member of the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation Board, the Greater Cleveland Partnership Board and. chairs the Capital and Sustainability Campaign for Karamu House.

Previously she served on the Boards of the Cleveland Housing Network (Vice President), Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, New Village Corporation (President), Playhouse Square, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP (Co-Chair Economic Development Committee).

Ms. Whiting has received a number of honors and awards including the 2018 National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., Cleveland Chapter, Woman of Vision, the Women of Color Foundation Hall of Fame and Women of Achievement Award, The Women’s Business Center, 2018 Women of the Year, Crain’s Women of Note, Northeastern Neighborhood Development Corporation Community Builder, and the Kaleidoscope Magazine 40 under 40 recognition.

Ms. Whiting is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Alpha Omega Chapter, The Links, Incorporated, Cleveland Chapter, the Northeasterners, and the Jack and Jill of America Incorporated, Associates Chapter, Cleveland, Ohio. Ms. Whiting is an elder at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights, and has served on its Session and has served as the Clerk of Session. She has chaired the Mission Committee, served as a confirmand Mentor, taught Sunday School and is currently on the personnel committee, Session, and Faith Formation Committee. Ms. Whiting is a mother of three adult children, Taylor, Lorin and Anthony Smith, II.

Robyn Minter Smyers, Esq.

Robyn is an attorney for the law firm of Thompson Hine. She is a member of Thompson Hine’s Executive Committee, as well as the former Cleveland office Partner-in-Charge, and the former chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Initiative. She is a partner in the firm’s Real Estate, Construction and Corporate Transactions & Securities practice groups. She focuses her practice on commercial real estate acquisitions and sales, development, financing, leasing


and corporate transactions. Robyn regularly represents and advises real estate investment trusts (REITs), real estate investment funds, public and private real estate development companies, commercial lenders, retailers and other corporations. The coordination of complex transactions, including ground-up development deals and multi-site, multi-state acquisitions and divestitures, are her forte. Her practice has a particular focus on shopping center deals, urban redevelopment projects, manufacturing plant development, hospitality projects and public-private-partnership (P3) transactions. Her practice also focuses on counseling corporations on real estate strategies, dispositions of environmentally contaminated assets, facilities management and domestic sourcing and procurement transactions.

In 1995, Robyn clerked for Justice Albie Sachs on the Constitutional Court of South Africa. From 1991 to 1992, she was a Benjamin Trustman Traveling Fellow in South Africa, where she worked for Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Robyn is currently a member of the board of directors for The City Club of Cleveland, the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, the Codrington Foundation, and the Cleveland Foundation African American Philanthropy Committee. She has also served on the boards of Karamu House, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland Housing Network, the George Gund Foundation and the Sherwick Fund. She is a graduate of Cleveland Bridge Builders and Leadership Cleveland. Robyn is also a member of the Cleveland Bar Association and was named a 2018 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyer, a YWCA Woman of Achievement, Savoy Magazine 100 Most Influential Black Lawyers and a member of Inside Business Power 100 List. She is a member of the LINKS, Inc., a Crain’s Cleveland Business Woman of Note, and a Del de Windt Leadership Award for Civic Engagement, of The First Tee of Cleveland. Robyn was also named a Super Lawyer by the Ohio Super Lawyer Magazine, winner of the Ohio Leadership Excellence Award from the National Diversity Council, a member of Kaleidoscope Magazine’s 40/40 Club.

Robyn is a lifelong resident of the City of Shaker Heights, a graduate of Harvard College and Yale School of . Law. Robyn is married to Bert Smyers and is a mother of three.

Erskine Cade

Erskine (Ernie) Cade is a Partner with Strategic Health Care (SHC) and Strategic Government Relations (SGI Group), legislative and regulatory affairs firms well respected for expertise in public policy and impact upon decision-making at the federal, state, and local levels of government.

Ernie is recognized as one of the nation’s leading lobbyist by Black Enterprise Magazine, Who’s Who in Corporate America, and Who’s Who in Black Cleveland Cade is a celebrated leader in Greater Cleveland’s civic sector, as a diligent and engaged member of several community boards. He currently serves as a board member and former board chair for the Center of Families and Children (CFC) and Capital Square Foundation. He is a former board chair and member of the Ohio United Way, a member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), and the Levin College Visiting Committee and Advisory Board, College of Urban Affairs, at Cleveland State University. Cade is also a member of the Mentoring Committee at Cleveland State University and a member of the ADAMS Board of Cuyahoga County. He is a life member of the National Black MBA Association. He also formerly served as chairman of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), the Ohio Lottery Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals with the City of Cleveland.

Ernie has over 35 years of experience as a corporate lobbyist and business executive. He recently served as Senior Vice President and Director of Government Relations for Key Corp, overseeing Key’s efforts and accomplishments on legislative and regulatory affairs. He also served as a member of KeyBank’s Executive Council. Ernie was also a member of the American Bankers Association, serving on the Government Relations Committee.

Ernie also led a meritorious career with The Standard Oil Company of Ohio (SOHIO) and BP. Among his many assignments, he served as regional director of government relations for the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast states. Ernie spent time in the U.K. and met with members of Parliament and the House of Lords. He also held positions in consumer sales, industrial sales and retail marketing management, where he was responsible for managing more than 300 employees in 120 retail outlets, and over $150M in sales. His tenure also included working for the company’s Alaskan pipeline permitting operations, and proposed construction of a deep water oil terminal in Long Beach, California.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Ernie received his Business Administration degree from West Virginia State University while playing for the university’s basketball program. He earned an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Ernie is a member of Gethsemane Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH, serving as the chairman of the Deacon’s Ministry. He is also a member of Sigma Pi Phi (The Boule), Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., and 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland. Ernie if the proud father of Michael Cade, grandfather of Michael Jr. and Marcus Cade, and great-grandfather of Michael K. Cade.

Dr. Alex Johnson

As president of Cuyahoga Community College, Dr. Alex Johnson focuses on strengthening the college’s 50-year mission of providing high-quality, accessible and affordable educational opportunities and services. Since becoming president in July 2013, he has promoted access, equity, success and completion for the nearly 60,000 credit and non-credit students who attend Tri-C’s four campuses and other locations throughout Cleveland and its suburbs each year.

Dr. Johnson currently serves locally on the boards of the United Way of Greater Cleveland, Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, IdeaStream, PlayHouseSquare, MAGNET, Team NEO and the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

Nationally, he is a member of the boards of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and Higher Education Research and Development Institute (HERDI). Most recently he has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Dr. Johnson has served in numerous capacities with the American Association for Community Colleges (AACC) including being a member of the board and executive committee; chair of the Committee on Community College Advancement; member of the Voluntary Framework on Accountability Steering Committee; member of the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges and co-chair of the Implementation Committee for the Commission’s report Reclaiming the American Dream.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including The Frank G. Jackson Visionary Award, The Pittsburgh Business Times CEO of the Year, and the Simon Green Atkins Distinguished Alumnus Award from Winston-Salem State University.

Prior to coming to Ohio’s largest community college, Dr. Johnson served as president of the Community College of Allegheny County, a multi-campus college in and around Pittsburgh. He served a two-year term as president of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges and was on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education. He was previously chancellor of Delgado Community College in New Orleans and president of Tri-C’s Metropolitan Campus.

Dr. Johnson earned a doctorate from the Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree from Lehman College and a bachelor’s degree from Winston-Salem State University, and two honorary degrees.

Charles S. Modlin, MD

In 1983, Dr. Modlin graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., with a degree in chemistry. He received his medical school education at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, graduating in 1987. He then moved to New York City, where he completed a six-year residency in urological surgery at New York University in 1993. He came to Cleveland in 1993, where he completed a three-year fellowship in basic science transplant immunology and clinical renovascular and renal transplantation surgery. In 1996, he joined the Staff of Cleveland Clinic’s Urological Institute with a joint staff appointment within the Transplant Center. He has authored scientific publications and presented scientific research at national meetings.

Dr. Modlin is not only the sole African American transplant surgeon in Northeastern Ohio, but he represents one of only 17 African American transplant surgeons in the entire United States. A special area of interest of Dr. Modlin is the issue of healthcare disparities experienced by minority patients in the United States. Minority patients suffer a disproportionate burden of disease in many areas, such as prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and need for kidney transplantation. To this end, Dr. Modlin has developed a dedicated Minority Men’s Health Center and Center for Health Equity at Cleveland Clinic. The center conducts dedicated research into elimination of minority healthcare disparities and provides community outreach as well as direct patient care and public education to minority patients.

Dr. Modlin is board-certified in urology and a member of the American College of Surgeons, American Society of Transplantation, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, the American Urological Association and the Urologic Society of Transplantation and Vascular Surgery. He is Chair of the MOTTEP of Cleveland Education and Medical Advisory Board.

He also serves as an elected member of the Northwestern University Medical School Alumni National Board. He is Chair of the Cleveland NAACP Health Committee and Chairs the 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland Health Committee. Dr. Modlin has held positions on the United Network of Organ Sharing Minority Affairs Committee and was the UNOS Representative from the National Medical Association. Other professional highlights include receiving the Cleveland Greater Cleveland Partnership MLK Community Service Award in 2007, the MOTTEP Man of the Year Award in 2000 and named one of Cleveland’s 100 Most Influential by the Call & Post newspaper and in 2011 he was listed as one of America’s Top 21 Outstanding Black Doctors. On the home front, he is married and is the father of four children.

Leon Bibb

Raised in Cleveland’s Glenville area, and a graduate of Glenville High School on the city’s east side, Bibb’s broadcasting career began during his student days at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Following graduation, he worked as a newspaper reporter at The Plain Dealer. After a year at WTOL-TV (Toledo), he accepted a news position at WCMH-TV in Columbus. Prior to joining WEWS-TV, Bibb worked at WKYC-TV as the weekend News Anchor and News Reporter. In 1986, he became Primary News Anchor for the Monday through Friday newscasts. Leon Bibb anchors the noon newscast at WEWS-TV, as well as hosting a Sunday morning show named Kaleidoscope, which focuses on urban issues in Cleveland. In the early 2000s, Bibb did a series called Our Hometown, where he focused on a historical sites in the Cleveland area. He is known to take a camera operator to talk about a story in his own perspective, and such stories are now featured on WEWS under the title of “My Ohio”.

Dr. R.A. Vernon


Dr. R. A. Vernon is the founder and senior pastor of The Word Church, the largest and fastest growing church in the history of Cleveland, Ohio and one of the fastest growing churches in America. With over twenty-five years in ministry and nearly two decades in the pastorate, Dr. Vernon has enjoyed a prolific, storied career in pastoring, but consciously chooses to never stop growing, personally or vocationally. Having started with only one service in a high school in 2000, The Word Church is now a multisite ministry with fourteen services and four campuses across Northeastern Ohio including Warrensville Heights (Main), Downtown, East Cleveland, and Akron, which is currently under renovation, opening in the spring of 2015. A believer in the power of cash over credit and the importance of stewardship, Dr. Vernon opened The Word Church Downtown in the fall of 2014, completely debt free. Known for his uncompromising integrity, he is a trailblazer and trendsetter who focuses on relevance and innovation. Because of the number of weekly worship services at The Word, Dr. Vernon developed the concept of pre-recorded broadcasting for the services he is unable to attend due to time and distance constraints—a ground-breaking move among African-American churches. He also adopted the practice of planting campus pastors to lead the satellite locations so that the members at these locations still receive a personal touch even when he is not physically present. Dr. Vernon is committed to continual improvement and creating opportunities for others to improve as well. Through his bold, frank delivery of the Word of God, he crusades to free other church leaders from the fetters of foundationless formality.

The Honorable Frank G. Jackson


Jackson is the son of an African-American father and an Italian-American mother. Jackson grew up in the Kinsman and Central neighborhoods. After graduating from Max S. Hayes High School, Jackson served in the United States Army. After his discharge, Jackson attended Cuyahoga Community College where he earned an associate’s degree. He later attended Cleveland State University (CSU), earning a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and History and a master’s degree in Urban Affairs. He worked while putting himself through law school at CSU’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Jackson entered politics with the influence of former Cleveland Councilman Lonnie L. Burten. He passed the Ohio bar exam and started his legal career as an assistant city prosecutor. In 1989, Jackson won a seat on the Cleveland City Council for Ward 5. As Councilman, Jackson spearheaded efforts to bring in approximately a half billion dollars of community investments, working to clean up and stabilize his ward.

He fought for the redevelopment of Arbor Park Place, the construction of the only Home Ownership Zone in the city, and worked with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) as it began to rebuild its estates. Jackson became an active critic of then-Mayor Michael R. White, who had vowed in his campaign to clean up neighborhoods but had instead dedicated the bulk of his tenure to downtown development. Jackson’s progress in Ward 5 aided his election to Council President in 2001, succeeding Michael D. Polensek.

Randell McShepard


Randell McShepard was elected vice president – public affairs in October 2007. He is primarily responsible for coordinating external and governmental affairs for the company. His duties also include managing the corporate philanthropy program and facilitating corporate purchasing initiatives. Mr. McShepard began his career at RPM in 2001 when he joined the company as director of community affairs. He previously served as executive director of City Year Cleveland, assistant director of administration and program development for the Cleveland Bicentennial Commission and supervisor of training services for Vocational Guidance Services in Cleveland. Mr. McShepard is very active in the Cleveland community, serving as a trustee for Baldwin-Wallace University, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and the George Gund Foundation.

His professional affiliations include the Public Affairs Committee for the National Association of Manufacturers. He is also the co-founder and Chairman of Policy Bridge, a public policy think tank serving the Northeast Ohio region. Mr. McShepard holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and communications from Baldwin-Wallace College and a master’s degree in urban studies from Cleveland State University. He is a graduate of Leadership Cleveland and a distinguished alumnus of Cleveland State University.

He and his wife, Gail, reside in Beachwood, Ohio with their three children.

Louise J. Gissendaner


Ms. Louise J. Gissendaner serves as Senior Vice President and Director of Community Development for the Northeastern Ohio affiliate of Fifth Third Bank, a state member bank headquartered in Cincinnati with assets over $105.8 billion and a presence in ten states. Ms. Gissendaner serves on the management team and is primarily responsible for managing the bank’s community reinvestment reporting and goal setting. She is also responsible for directing community development sponsorships and foundation grant opportunities to community organizations throughout Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Ms. Gissendaner has extensive knowledge in the areas of regulatory compliance, community development lending, and CRA-related activities.

Prior to working at Fifth Third, Ms. Gissendaner served as Vice President and Community Reinvestment Officer at the Ohio affiliate of Banc One Corporation. She currently serves on the board of Cleveland Action to Support Housing (C.A.S.H.), is Board Chair of the Akron Urban League, and is the Founder and President of Sankofa Fine Arts Plus. Ms. Gissendaner served as a Member of Consumer Advisory Council at The Federal Reserve System (The Federal Reserve Board).

Frederick R. Nance, Esq.

Frederick R. Nance serves as Squire Patton Boggs’ Regional Managing Partner, operating out of the Cleveland office. Squire Patton Boggs, which was founded in Cleveland in 1890, now serves clients from 44 offices around the globe. Mr. Nance’s legal practice focuses on sports and entertainment law, commercial litigation, client counseling and public-private partnerships. Much of his practice in recent years has included high-stakes negotiations involving community interests. He is an experienced jury trial litigator in federal and state courts and a frequent participant in alternative dispute resolution proceedings.

Mr. Nance also leads the firm’s Sports and Entertainment Group in the US. Fred began his career at Squire Patton Boggs directly from law school. From 1991 through 2001, Mr. Nance served as the primary outside counsel to the City of Cleveland and former Cleveland Mayor Michael White in a variety of impactful initiatives and development projects including spearheading the battle to keep the Browns in Cleveland.

He has also served two four-year terms on Squire Patton Boggs’ worldwide, seven-person Management Committee. In the summer of 2006, Mr. Nance was selected from among several hundred candidates as one of five finalists for the position of Commissioner of the National Football League. In December 2009, Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner asked Mr. Nance to join his team’s front office where Mr. Nance served for three years as the Browns General Counsel, while remaining a Squire Patton Boggs partner.

Arnold R. Pinkney


His extensive management, educational, political and entrepreneurial experiences have a proven record of excellence. His visionary leadership and innovative spirit have led to more than 39 years of providing quality insurance products and services for many Cleveland residents. Mr. Pinkney has been instrumental in the organization of several successful levies, campaigns and area development projects. Mr. Pinkney managed the extension of the sin tax campaign that provided major funding for the new Cleveland Browns Stadium. He co-managed the Save the Browns campaign which brought a new expansion team to Cleveland. He was the Deputy Campaign Manager to Dick Celeste’s successful Ohio gubernatorial campaign in 1982 and 1986.

Mr. Pinkney managed the national campaign of Jesse Jackson for President in 1984. In 1996, he managed the successful Cleveland School District operation levy campaign, and managed the mayoral campaign to re-elect mayor Michael R. White. He was the state campaign director for Bill Bradley’s bid for the democratic presidential nomination. One of his most noteworthy achievements is his ability to construct comprehensive and effective strategic plans. It is Mr. Pinkney’s firm belief that corporations must become good partners with their communities and that the communities, in turn, must support their businesses.

He is firmly committed to this belief and has shown his dedication by working with top executives to achieve the following goals: helping them to realize the importance of cultural differences, understanding the political environment, building community alliances and teaching them how to present themselves to governmental agencies. Mr. Pinkney holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Albion College, Albion, Michigan.

He attended Case Western Reserve School of Law and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from Central State University. He unfortunately died at the age of 83.

Margot James Copeland


Corporate executive Margot James Copeland was born on December 4, 1951 in Richmond, Virginia. She was the only child to her parents, Reverend William Lloyd Garrison James, a Baptist minister, and Thelma Taylor James, an eighth grade math teacher. Copeland earned her B.S. degree in physics from Hampton University, and her M.A. degree in educational research and statistics from The Ohio State University.

Copeland began her corporate career at Xerox Corporation, Polaroid, and Picker International. In 1992, she was hired as executive director for Leadership Cleveland, a program of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association that develops community leaders. After seven years at Leadership Cleveland, Copeland became president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Roundtable, a nonprofit organization founded to improve multicultural and multiracial relations in the Cleveland area. She joined KeyCorp in 2001, and served as executive vice president – director, corporate diversity and philanthropy and as an executive council member.

KeyCorp is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies and, within her position as chair and CEO of the KeyBank Foundation, she managed the company’s annual $20 million philanthropic investment program and oversaw diversity initiatives. KeyCorp has been included in Diversity Inc. magazine’s list of 50 Top Companies for Diversity in 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2009 and ranked 13th among the most generous cash giving companies in America in a 2003 list published by BusinessWeek. In 2013, the KeyBank Foundation was recognized as a Civic 50 Company by the National Conference on Citizenship, Points of Light and Bloomberg LP. Copeland has participated in a number of community organizations and boards. In 2010, she became the fifteenth president of The Links, Inc. She has also served as the president of the Junior League of Cleveland, Inc., sat on the Kent State University board of trustees, acted as Mentor/Protégé Program Advisor for Morehouse College, and is a member of the Business School Advisory board at Hampton University.

Copeland was listed as one of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Cleveland” by New Cleveland Woman magazine, and in 2012, Savoy magazine included her in a list of the “100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America.” She is also the recipient of the YWCA Career Woman of Achievement Award; was the 2006 Black Professional of the Year as recognized by Black Professionals Association Charitable Foundation; received the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Community Service Award; and the W.O. Walker Excellence in Community Service Award, sponsored by the Call and Post newspaper.

Copeland also received the distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award in 2013 from Hampton University. Copeland lives in Cleveland, Ohio and has three children, Reverend Kimberley, Dr. Garrison, and Michael Copeland.

David Whitehead


Mr. David W. Whitehead, Solon, served as Vice President of FirstEnergy Corp., and its subsidiary Jersey Central Power & Light Company until July 1, 2007. Mr. Whitehead also served as the Vice President, Corporate Secretary and Chief Ethics Officer of FirstEnergy Service of FirstEnergy Corp until July 1, 2007. He served as Secretary of Jersey Central Power & Light Company, FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. and Pennsylvania Power Company until July 1, 2007. He served as Corporate Secretary of FirstEnergy Corp. and Toledo Edison Company. He serves as Member of the Advisory Board at ASW Global, LLC. He received his Bachelor of Arts and law degrees from Cleveland State University.

Rev. Hilton O. Smith


As Senior Vice President for Corporate and Community Affairs at Turner Construction Company, Smith’s duties include managing the company’s corporate affairs, minority and woman owned business enterprise program, and their equal employment and educational programs. He coordinates business development and strategic marketing programs with Turner’s senior executive officers as well. Smith has actively led Turner’s efforts in awarding over $20 billion dollars to thousands of minority and woman business enterprises. For four consecutive years, Turner has reached the one billion dollar mark in the MWBE utilization program. He oversees the national Turner School of Construction Management, which began in 1969, along with the James H. Walker Course in conjunction with the City of Cleveland. Annually, Turner’s 46 business units coordinate and provide educational opportunities in the construction industry for small businesses. This is an award winning and widely recognized program that has received many awards, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s EVE Award, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission Award for Best Practices and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency Minority Advocate Award. Smith who follows a quality just like Martin Luther King Jr. also works for racial equality in the United States. Smith became active in the movement for Civil Rights and racial equality. In the Greater Cleveland area, he actively serves on the boards of The Cleveland Foundation, University Hospitals, United Black Fund, Urban League of Greater Cleveland, SCLC, and UCIP-ASAP.Nationally, he enthusiastically serves on several other boards. Smith is an ordained minister and serves as an associate minister of the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church. He is married to the beautiful Delores and they have three children and four grandchildren.

Danny Cameron


Cameron was raised in Hogansville, Ga., came to Cleveland to visit a sister, liked the town and stayed. He graduated from the International Institute of Data Processing in Cleveland and attended Trenton State College and Cuyahoga Community College. He served in the Army in South Korea. He married Dorothy L. Mason in 1965 and moved with her the next year to Warrensville Heights. He joined National City in 1968 as a data processing trainee. He rose through the ranks and managed the Lee-Harvard branch from 1975 to 1982.That year, Cameron helped to start the community development corporation, one of the nation’s first such organizations for profit. He also spent a couple years as the bank’s vice president of governmental affairs. He oversaw development in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

He opened offices in many major markets, including Akron, Youngstown, Toledo and Columbus. He helped fund West Tech High School’s apartments, south Collinwood Homes, East Fourth Street’s restaurant district and much more. He also helped Cuyahoga Community College start High Tech Academy for local high schoolers. In 2004, Cameron helped launch a $9 million campaign by the Local Initiatives Support Corp. for community projects in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Summit, Stark, Trumbull and Mahoning counties. He also served on the corporation’s regional advisory council. Cameron often joined projects with many partners, including government and other banks.

Counting funds from all sources, his projects were worth more than $5.7 billion. The results included more than 46,000 new or renovated housing units. He served on many civic groups, including the Warrensville Heights Civil Service Commission. He chaired the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Euclid Corridor Engineering Committee. Among his many awards, the Black Professionals Association Charitable Foundation named him Black Professional of the Year. At East Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Cameron was vice president of the deacons’ board and worked with youths. “We don’t just teach them how to read the Bible,” he told The Plain Dealer in 1992, “but how to live life, even little things, like which fork to use.” In 2004, he retired and moved with his wife to Stone Mountain, Ga. He liked to golf and work with model trains.

Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett


Barbara Byrd–Bennett (born April 12, 1951) is an American educator. Byrd–Bennett is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools district and the Cleveland Municipal School District. Byrd–Bennett served as CEO of the Cleveland Municipal School District from 1998 to 2006. From 2009 to 2011, she was the academic and accountability officer for the Detroit Public Schools system. She was hired as the Chicago Public Schools’ chief education advisor in April 2012 and then named CEO by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel six months later. She retired from CPS in 2015.

Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton


Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, Ph.D. served as the President of Cuyahoga Community College since 1992. Dr. Thornton served as Corporate Secretary of Greater Cleveland Partnership. From 1985 to 1991, Dr. Thornton served as the President of Lakewood Community College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Dr. Thornton has been a Director of Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc. since 1994, Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. since August 2, 2015 and FirstEnergy Corp. since March 17, 2015. Dr. Thornton has been an Independent Director of RPM International Inc. since 1999 and Bridgestreet Worldwide, Inc. since September 1997. Dr. Thornton serves as a Director of University Hospitals Health System, Inc., Playhouse Square Foundation, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum – Cleveland and New York, Cleveland Municipal School District, Greater Cleveland Roundtable, United Way of Cleveland, Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland, St. Vincent Quadrangle, Greater Cleveland Growth Association, Cleveland Foundation,

The and Cleveland Tomorrow (professional, educational and non-profit organizations). Dr. Thornton served as a Director of National City Corporation since 2001. He served as Director of American Family Mutual Insurance Co., Inc. and American Family Mutual Insurance Company. Dr. Thornton served as a Director of American Greetings Corp. from 2000 to October 2013. Dr. Thornton served as a Director for OfficeMax Incorporated since 2000. Dr. Thornton served as a Director of National City Bank (Bank and Financial institution). Dr. Thornton holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Thornton holds an MA and BA degrees from Murray State University.

Wayne Embry


He played in the NBA All-Star game for five consecutive seasons (1961–1965) and won the NBA Championship with the Celtics in 1968. Embry was originally drafted by the St. Louis Hawks in 1958. He was then traded closer to home weeks later to the Cincinnati Royals. The Royals were rebuilding due to the collapse of the team following the hospitalization of team star Maurice Stokes.

Star center Clyde Lovellette was traded to St. Louis for Embry and four others. Oscar Robertson arrived to the team in 1960, reviving the Royals. Embry, Robertson and Jack Twyman were all NBA All-Stars for Cincinnati over the next three years. Embry’s play was notable for his pick and roll play with Robertson, whose encouragement improved Embry’s game. A powerful 6’8″ and 240 pounds, Embry at times appeared to be a blocker on the court, a protector of teammates. But he also had a fine all-around game. In 1963, he was named team captain of the Royals. The 1963–64 Cincinnati Royals surged to the second-best record in the NBA, with teammate Jerry Lucas now added. But the team was not able to surpass the Boston Celtics of Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, or the Philadelphia 76ers with Wilt Chamberlain in their quest for an NBA title. Retiring to be a regional sales leader for Pepsi-Cola, Embry was talked out of retirement by friend Bill Russell, the new player/coach for Boston. Embry played crucial reserve minutes for Russell and aided that team’s surprising 1967–68 NBA title run. When the Milwaukee Bucks were formed, they claimed Embry from the Celtics and Embry centered the Bucks for the 1968–69 season. After retiring as a player he became the first African American NBA general manager, managing the Milwaukee Bucks (1972–1979), Cleveland Cavaliers (1986–1999), and Toronto Raptors (2006). He was selected NBA Executive of the Year in 1992 and 1998.

The Honorable Steve D. Bullock


Mr. Bullock has enjoyed a distinguished career with the American Red Cross. He was named chief executive officer and chapter manager of the Greater Cleveland Chapter in 1982. Prior to assuming this position, he worked for the Red Cross in military installations in the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Mr. Bullock also previously served as executive director of the agency’s St. Paul, MN chapter.

Mr. Speaker, in 1988, Steve Bullock was named chairman of the president’s advisory committee, a group of senior Red Cross field executives which counsels top management on issues facing the organization. Another highlight of his career occurred in 1995 when Mr. Bullock was appointed to head the 1996 national American Red Cross campaign. Mr. Bullock is also an active member of the Greater Cleveland community. His board memberships include the Greater Cleveland Roundtable, the Cleveland Campaign, and Leadership Cleveland. He is the chairman of the Mandel Center for Non-Profit Organizations, Case Western Reserve University Executive Advisory Network, and is the past president of the Council of United Way Services Agency Executives.

Mr. Bullock received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Sociology at Virginia Union University and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the College of St. Thomas. He has also done graduate work in urban administration; attended the American Red Cross Executive Development Institute; and is a graduate of Leadership Cleveland. Mr. Bullock and his wife, Doris, reside in University Heights.

They are active members of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland. Steve Bullock will be the 17th individual to receive of the prestigious Black Professional of the Year Award. As a past recipient of this honor, I take special pride in saluting him on this occasion. I join his family, friends, and colleagues in stating that he is more than deserving of the award. I also take this opportunity to applaud the Black Professionals Association for its strong leadership and commitment. I wish Mr. Bullock and the association much continued success.

Claire Freeman, Esq.


Ms. Freeman was one of the highest paid housing directors in the country when she was hired in May 1990. By 1997, her compensation totaled more than $400,000.

The Honorable Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Esq.


Stephanie Tubbs Jones (September 10, 1949 – August 20, 2008)[1][2][3] was a Democratic politician and member of the United States House of Representatives. She represented the 11th District of Ohio, which encompasses most of downtown and eastern Cleveland and many of the eastern suburbs in Cuyahoga County, including Euclid, Cleveland Heights, and Shaker Heights. She was the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress from Ohio. On December 19, 2006, Tubbs Jones was named Chairwoman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for the 110th Congress. She was also a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Alexandria Johnson Boone


Ms. Boone, a native of Cleveland, is a proud graduate of the Cleveland Public Schools. She also holds a Master’s Degree from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Organization Development and Analysis; Certificates from the Advanced Minority Business Management Program at the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College (1987-1991); and was a 1997 National Fellow in the Boston University School of Public Health’s Join Together Program. Ms. Boone was also a member of the prestigious Leadership Cleveland Class of 1987-88. Prior to founding GAP Communications Group, Ms. Boone was a Senior Vice President at a Cleveland-based P-R firm and was a Senior Public Information Officer for the Federal government for five years. She was also the founder of the Marcus Garvey Academy, an innovative community school with an African-centered curriculum, serving grades K-8, based in Cleveland, Ohio for ten years.

In 1994, Ms. Boone was named Black Professional of the Year, the most prestigious award that an African-American living in Greater Cleveland can receive; in 1995, she was named the Girls Scouts’ Woman of the Year; and in 1997, Crain’s Cleveland Business named her one of the Most Influential Women in Northeast Ohio. In September 2008, she was named one of Cleveland’s most powerful and influential citizens; and in December 2009, she was named Cleveland’s Power Networker of the Year, by Frasernet, Inc., a national networking organization. Most recently, Ms. Boone received the 2011 Phenomenal Woman Award from SuccessNet, Inc., commemorating its 25th Anniversary. Currently, her primary volunteer community involvement includes serving as a member of the Board of Directors of Sankofa Fine Arts Plus; the Board of Governors at The Club at Key Center; and the Board of Directors at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, all located in Cleveland, Ohio; and the Urquhart Memorial Foundation located in Phoenix, Arizona. Throughout her career, Ms. Boone has received several awards for her business and professional achievements and has been recognized for a number of communications industry accomplishments.

The Honorable Michael R. White, Esq.


White began his political career early on during his college years at Ohio State University, when he protested against the discriminatory policies of the Columbus public bus system and was subsequently arrested. White then ran the following year for Student Union President and won, becoming the college’s first black student body leader. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1973 and a Master of Public Administration degree in 1974. After college, White returned to Cleveland. He served from 1976 to 1977 as an administrative assistant to the Cleveland City Council and then served as city councilman from the Glenville area from 1978 to 1984. During his time on the City Council, White became a prominent protégé of Councilman George L. Forbes. White then represented the area’s 21st District in the Ohio Senate, serving as a Democratic assistant minority whip.

George C. Fraser


It was some 20 years ago that God unveiled His real purpose for George. Mr. Fraser went on to author two critically acclaimed books: Success Runs in Our Race; The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African American Community and Race for Success; The Ten Best Business Opportunities for Blacks in America. Mr. Fraser is also the publisher of the award-winning Success Guide Worldwide: The Networking Guide to Black Resources.

He is the founder of the annual Power Networking Conference, where thousands of Black professionals, business owners, and community leaders gather to discuss and do business with each other. Dr. Fraser is the Chairman of Phoenix Village Academy; which consists of three Afrocentric charter schools that serve Cleveland and Akron inner city children. A popular speaker and author, George C. Fraser’s inspiring talks on success principles, effective networking, wealth creation, business ethics, and valuing diversity, are as popular among corporate professionals as they are among college students. His views have been solicited by media as diverse as CNN and the Wall Street Journal. Over the past decade, the prestigious publication, Vital Speeches of the Day, has selected, reprinted and distributed worldwide, five of Mr. Fraser’s speeches–a first for any professional speaker in America, regardless of color.

UPSCALE magazine name him one of the “Top 50 power brokers in Black America”. Black Enterprise Magazine called him “Black America’s #1 Networker” and featured him on a cover issue

The Honorable Louis Stokes, Esq.

Gloria Pace King


A passionate and driven fund-raiser, she boosted United Way’s annual campaign total to $45.3 million in 2007 from $18.5 million in 1993, the year before she became CEO. “Gloria was a very strong fund-raiser and led a strong fund-raising campaign,” says Janet Singerman, president of Child Care Resources Inc., a United Way partner agency.

Dr. Charles E. Taylor


Over the past decade, Dr. Taylor has successfully completed more than 125 executive search assignments in the academic, corporate and nonprofit arenas. Dr. Taylor’s assignments have included university presidents and other senior university officials, public school superintendents, foundation and association executives, chief financial officers, chief information officers, chief legal officers, members of boards of directors and public officials. 

Prior to joining Diversified Search, Dr. Taylor was with The Prout Group, where he served as Managing Director of the Education, Government and Nonprofit Practice. His career spans nearly 30 years in a variety of corporate and academic management positions. He has served as President of Morris Brown College and Wilberforce University; President of BP (British Petroleum) Shipping; Director of Corporate Contributions for the Standard Oil Company; and Managing Partner and Senior Partner of two global retained executive search firms.

Dr. Nolen M. Ellison


After Dr. Ellison was elected in 1966 to the Board of Trustees at the Kansas City Community College, he quickly became enthralled with the community college environment. He was eventually recruited by Michigan State University to pursue his Ph.D., and, in 1972, he became president at Seattle Central Community College in Washington. Two years later, after an exhaustive nationwide search, Dr. Ellison became the second president of Cuyahoga Community College.

He was 33 and one of the youngest college presidents in the United States. Tri-C was at a crossroads when Dr. Ellison arrived and his prescient vision and indomitable will modernized and transformed the College. To successfully manage the growth of the school and deliver outstanding education to its students, Dr. Ellison believed he needed to significantly change the College’s management methodology. Blessed with a $300,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation, he rallied internal and external support. Dr. Ellison was among the first educators to understand that colleges needed computers to help them operate. In 1977, the College made a significant investment in its computer systems, putting Tri-C years ahead of most four-year colleges in utilizing technology to manage and distribute key information.

George L. Forbes, Esq.


George Lawrence Forbes (born April 4, 1931) is an American politician of the Democratic Party. From 1974 to 1989, Forbes served as one of the most powerful presidents of Cleveland City Council. He is the former President of the Cleveland NAACP and is semi-retired from practicing law. He served a tour in the U.S. Marine Corps and attended Baldwin-Wallace College on the G.I. Bill and graduated with a B.A. in 1957. He received a J.D. from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1961. He passed the Ohio bar exam and began practicing law.

Carole F. Hoover


Ms. Hoover is President and Chief Executive Officer of Hoover Milstein, a partnership formed in 1999 between Carole F. Hoover and Howard P. Milstein of New York City to provide financial services and real estate development.

Prior to establishing Hoover Milstein, Ms. Hoover was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association. Ms. Hoover is also Chairman and Chief of HWH, LLC and a member of the Board of Directors of Emigrant Capital in New York.

Steven A. Minter


Minter served as president and executive director of the Cleveland Foundation from 1984 until his retirement in July 2003. Outside the foundation world, Minter spent over 15 years in governmental positions. In 1980, when the U.S. Department of Education was first formed, he served as its first undersecretary. From 1970 to 1975, he was the commissioner of public welfare for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He had a career as a caseworker at the Cuyahoga County Welfare Department in 1960 in Cleveland, Ohio and became its director in 1969.
Minter served on the boards of numerous national and regional organizations, including the College of Wooster, Community Foundations of America, American Public Welfare Association and the National Community AIDS Partnership. He co-chaired Greater Cleveland’s Vision Council and served on the boards of the Greater Cleveland Roundtable, Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education, the Union Club and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. He is a director of KeyCorp and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. He is also a former board member of Dominion Resources, Rubbermaid and Ohio Bell Telephone Company.

John H. Bustamante, Esq.


John H. Bustamante formed First Bank, headed the Call & Post and represented everything from small businesses to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s causes. He chaired Central State University, helped clean up its ledgers and closed it during a riot. He also helped lead many businesses and nonprofits.

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.


Moss was born in and raised in LaGrange, Georgia, the fourth of five children. After being orphaned at 16 he earned his B.A. at Morehouse College in 1956, before earning his Master of Divinity from the Morehouse School of Religion in 1959. At Morehouse, Moss was taught and mentored by Benjamin Mays, who was also a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. While at Morehouse, Moss helped lead sit-ins and other activities to protest segregation.

He completed further graduate coursework at the Interdenominational Theological Center from 1960 to 1961. He also earned a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in 1990, where he was taught by Samuel DeWitt Proctor and became friends with Jeremiah Wright, pastor of the famous Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and pastor of Barack Obama.

Cheryle A. Wills

This exemplifies our Black Professional for 1982, Cheryle A. Wills, and her marvelous philosophy. This energetic, community-minded young lady feels she is only doing the least of her duties to mankind by serving on the various boards and communities that occupy her busy day.

In 1971, Cheryle was appointed to the Cleveland Public Library Board, the first Black woman appointed in the one hundred and eight-year history of the board. The Cuyahoga Mental Health and Retardation Board called on Cheryle in 1974 to serve as Chairperson of the Finance Committee. Mayor Voinovich appointed her to the City of Cleveland Planning Commission in January of 1981. Cheryle sits on the boards of the Phyllis Wheatley Association, United Way Services, YMCA, YWCA, Goodwill Industries, Cuyahoga Women’s Political Caucus, Hospice Council, Better Business Bureau, Dyke College, Operation PUSH, Karamu and the Ohio Citizens Council, just to name a few.

She is a member of the Women’s City Club, Cuyahoga Women’s Political Caucus, the Charter Class of Leadership Cleveland, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, NAACP, Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Carnegie Roundtable, Operation Alert, and Jack & Jill, Inc.

Her list of awards is equally as long. They include the Council of Economic Opportunity Achievement Award in 1972; Civic Award, National Council of Negro Women, 1976; Neighbor of the Year, Central Community 1973; Outstanding Young Citizen Award for the City of Cleveland in 1976: Cleveland Business League, Community Award in 1979; and the Council of Minority Business Men Award, 1981. In 1976, she set another record by being the first woman to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the Cleveland Jaycees. In the same year, the Cleveland Press chose Cheryle as one of Twenty Outstanding Women in Greater Cleveland.

The great granddaughter of a slave, the granddaughter of a farmer, and the daughter of an Associate Dean of the University of Wisconsin, this is but a part of the history of our honoree, Cheryle. She provides us with a role model in a time when leaders are so few. We, The Black Professionals Association, are proud and honored to salute Cheryle Wits our Black Professional of the Year 1982.

Betram E. Gardner


Bertram E. Gardner (1916- ) was Vice-President, Urban Affairs and Management Development, at AmeriTrust Corp. He also served as Executive Director of Cleveland’s Community Relations Board, president of the City Club (1972), and president of the Kiwanis Club.

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