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Reginald F. Lewis

Founder
TLC Group L.P.

Reginald F. Lewis began his career at the age of 10, delivering the local Afro-American newspaper. Fortune Magazine reported that as a child, Mr. Lewis kept his earnings in a tin can known as "Reggie's Hidden Treasure." He later sold his newspaper business at a profit.

Mr. Lewis graduated from Virginia State University on the Dean's List. He went directly to Harvard Law School after graduation. It was in his third year at Harvard that he discovered the direction for his career in a course on securities law. Lewis wrote his third year paper on takeovers.

After graduation, he went to work for a prestigious New York law firm. Within two years he established his own Wall Street law firm. While his focus was corporate law, Mr. Lewis also helped many minority-owned businesses secure badly needed capital. A desire to "do the deals myself" led to Lewis starting the TLC Group L.P. in 1983. His first major deal was the $22.5 million leveraged buyout of the McCall Pattern Co. Lewis nursed the struggling company back to health and, in the summer of 1987; he sold the company for $90 million, making $50 million in profit. Despite a declining market, under his leadership, McCall enjoyed the two most profitable years in its 113-year history. In October 1987, Mr. Lewis purchased, for $985 million, the international division of Beatrice Foods, with holdings in 31 countries, which became known as TLC Beatrice International. This deal was the largest buyout ever of overseas assets by an American company. As chairman and CEO, he moved quickly to reposition the company to pay down the debt and vastly increase the company's worth. In 1992, the company had sales of over $1.6 billion.

Giving was part of his agenda and in 1987, he established The Reginald F. Lewis Foundation. Prior to his death, the foundation made grants of approximately $10 million to various education, children, community, civil rights, arts and health programs and organizations. His first major grant was made in 1988, an unsolicited $1 million grant to Howard University, a school he never attended. A grant of $3 million was made to Harvard Law School, then the largest grant in the school's history. In gratitude, the school named its International Law Center building for Reginald F. Lewis.

Wilma Mankiller

Former Principal Chief
Cherokee Nation

Wilma Mankiller served for two years as the first female elected deputy chief and for 10 years as first female principal chief of the 220,000 member Cherokee Nation. Her areas of expertise include community development, public relations, tribal governance, leadership, writing, and the conceptualization and development of an extensive array of projects ranging from basic infrastructure to programs for children and youth.

Ms. Mankiller's list of many accomplishments include leading a Cherokee Nation team that obtained a Congressional appropriation to build an $11 million Job Corps Center in Tahlequah as well as the John Ketcher Youth Shelter, a homeless shelter for children and youth of all races. She also led a Cherokee Nation Industries team that successfully obtained a special IRS tax letter ruling, which allowed the firm to continue to operate as a state chartered corporation but remain free of state taxation when the land was placed in trust. This has saved the company millions of dollars in state taxes. She also helped conceptualize, obtain the venture capital, and put on the ground most of the businesses which now comprise Cherokee Nation Enterprises.

Ms. Mankiller founded and served as the first director of the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department which has received a number of national awards for innovative projects utilizing self-help.

Ms. Mankiller has a bachelor's degree in social services. She has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, the International Women's Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She has l8 honorary doctorates from universities, including Yale, Dartmouth and Smith Colleges. She was a Chubb Fellow at Yale and a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth. She has presented more than l00 lectures at universities and published more than a dozen papers in journals and newspapers.

She is a trustee of the Ford Foundation and the Freedom Forum's Newseum. She co-edited "A Reader's Companion to the History of Women in the U.S.," Houghton-Mifflin, co-authored, "Mankiller: A Chief and Her People," St. Martin's Press, and her newest book, "Every Day is a Good Day," was published by Fulcrum Press in fall 2004. She is one of a handful of Native American recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

John H. Johnson

Founder
Johnson Publishing Company. Inc.

John H. Johnson is best known as a publisher, businessman and humanitarian. Mr. Johnson began his publishing career in November 1942 as editor and publisher of Negro Digest, later Black World. The company, founded by Mr. Johnson, publishes EBONY, the No. 1 African American magazine in the world every consecutive year since its founding in 1945, and JET, the world's No. 1 African-American newsweekly magazine, founded in 1951.

Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. has been the world's largest Black-owned publishing company in the world for 60 years. Johnson Publishing Company also publishes books exclusively by black authors, owns Fashion Fair Cosmetics, the largest black-owned cosmetics company in the world, and produces television specials. Mr. Johnson became chairman and CEO of Supreme Life Insurance Company, where he began his career as an office boy.

Mr. Johnson accompanied Vice President Richard M. Nixon on a special goodwill tour to nine African countries, Russia and Poland. He was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as Special U. S. Ambassador to the Independence Ceremonies of the Ivory Coast. He was later appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as Special U. S. Ambassador to the Independence Ceremonies of Kenya.

His board memberships included Dillard Department Stores, Inc. VIAD CORP., Bell & Howell; Chrysler Corporation; Conrail; Continental Bank; Arthur D. Little; Supreme Life Insurance Company; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Zenith Electronics Corporation. His philanthropic and civic contributions included being a trustee for The Art Institute of Chicago and United Negro College Fund; a member of the Advisory Council, Harvard Graduate School of Business; director of the National Conference of Christians & Jews; and a member of the Industries Advisory Committee-The Advertising Council, Inc.

He and his wife, Eunice, who is producer-director of the EBONY Fashion Fair and secretary-treasurer of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. have one child, Linda Johnson Rice, who is president and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. Mr. Johnson graduated with honors from DuSable High School and attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. He held numerous honorary degrees and was the recipient of scores of awards and honors.

Ernesta G. Procope

Founder
E. G. Bowman Company

When Ernesta Procope founded E.G. Bowman Company as a small insurance agency in Brooklyn in 1953, few African Americans--particularly women--were in the business. But with her drive and entrepreneurial spirit, she beat the odds, grew the business and broke into the mainstream of the American economy. In 1979 the firm became the first major black-owned business on Wall Street.

E.G. Bowman is now a powerhouse--America's largest minority-owned and woman-owned insurance brokerage--that serves Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits nationally. Its clients include many of America's largest and most distinguished corporations, such as Philip Morris, Tiffany and Pfizer.

Ms. Procope was a driving force behind the creation of the FAIR Plan in 1968. In the 1960s, when insurers were redlining minority neighborhoods and canceling the firm's customers, she personally lobbied Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to support legislation that made homeowners insurance available to all homeowners in the state.

Most recently, Ms. Procope became the founder and president of Bowman Specialty Services, LLP, which provides engineering and safety services, with an insurance-prevention focus, to a number of major accounts.

She has received dozens of awards and citations, including Essence magazine's "2004 Power Award;" one of the"25 Most Innovative Agents in America" from The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research (2004); Turner Broadcasting System's "2002 Trumpet Award;" enshrinement in the African American Business Hall of Fame (2003); Business Insurance's "Leading 100 Women in the Insurance Industry;" Ernst & Young's "Entrepreneur of the Year," the U.S. Small Business Administration's "Small Business Person of the Year," and the Institute for Community Development's "Community Leadership Award." In 1972 First Lady Patricia Nixon named her "Woman of the Year."

She has served on many corporate and nonprofit boards, including The Chubb Corporation, Avon Products, Columbia Gas System, New York Urban League and Cornell University, and chaired Adelphi University's board. She holds Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Howard University, Adelphi University and Marymount Manhattan College as well as a Doctor of Humane Letters from Morgan State University.

Abraham S. Venable

Former Director,
Office of Minority Business Enterprise
(now the Minority Business Development Agency)

Abraham S. Venable dedicated himself to improving the position of minorities in all facets of GM's operations from employment opportunities to minority supplier and dealers. In his role as executive director of Urban Affairs, he also encouraged the corporation to "more effectively address social and economic issues affecting minorities.

Born in Washington, D.C., Mr. Venable is a graduate of Howard University with a B.A. and a M.A. in economics. From 1968-69, he was nominated by the U.S. Department of Commerce to participate in the Fellow Program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. In 1983 he was selected by GM to participate in the Senior Executive Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology which included 50 executives from 20 countries.

Mr. Venable joined the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1963 and served in a number of assignments before becoming the first minority director of the Office of Minority Business Enterprise (now the Minority Business Development Agency). While there he oversaw the beginning of a massive concerted effort to bring minorities into the mainstream of American business.

Among his numerous awards, he has been honored by the Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America with its OIC Humanitarian Award and awards for outstanding service from the NAACP and the National Urban League. One of several awards from Howard University included the Minority Business Advocacy Award from the school's Small Business Development Center. Recently, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded Mr. Venable it first Lifetime Achievement Award.

He also holds honorary degrees from Shaw College in Detroit, Grand Valley State College in Michigan, and is an honorary member of Beta Gamma Sigma, a business fraternity at Howard University.

In addition to several trips to African nations to increased trade with the U.S. while with the government, Mr. Venable visited the Republic of South Africa to attend a conference sponsored by the U.S. South African Leadership Exchange Program and to visit GM facilities in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.

Mr. Venable is the author of several articles dealing with black businessmen as well as a book, Building Black Business -- An Analysis and a Plan . All rights and proceeds from the sale of the book were assigned to Howard University to establish a scholarship fund in his name. As a result of this, two $100,000 endowment have been established -- one for the School of Business and one for the Jazz Ensemble in the School of Music.

Currently, Mr. Venable serves a chairman of the Institute for American Business, a non-profit organization which he founded. IAB is primarily concerned with developing non-traditional business opportunities for minorities.

Mr. Venable is married to Dr. Anna G. Venable and they have three children -- Karen, Douglas and Stephen.

Parren J. Mitchell

Founder
Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (MBELDEF)

Championing the causes of the black and poor comes naturally to Parren J. Mitchell. In 1950, Mitchell filed suit to compel the University of Maryland to enroll him as its first black graduate student. There, he completed his master's degree in sociology and was admitted to the school's honor society. After receiving his master's degree, Mitchell returned to teach at his alma mater, Morgan State University.

As executive director of Baltimore's anti-poverty program in the late 60s, Mitchell lobbied Washington for his agency's programs. Also during the l960s, he served as executive secretary for the Maryland Human Relations Commission and played the pivotal role in the enactment and implementation of Maryland's statewide Public Accommodations Law.

In 1970, he was elected Maryland's first black Congressman.

In 1976, Mitchell attached to President Carter's $4 billion Public Works Bill an amendment that compelled state, county and municipal governments seeking federal grants to set aside 10 percent of the money to retain minority firms as contractors, subcontractors; $625 million (15%) going to legitimate minority firms.

He also introduced the legislation, which, in 1976, became Public Law 95-507, which requires proposals from contractors to spell out their goals for awarding contracts to minority subcontractors. This law potentially provides access to billions of dollars for minority businesses. His amendment to the $71 billion Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 required a 10 percent set-aside for disadvantaged businesses.

He served as: Whip-At-Large; Senior Member of the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, chairman of its Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy; chairman of the House Small Business Committee, chairman of its Task Force on Minority Enterprise; chairman of the Subcommittee on Housing, Minority Enterprise and Economic Development of the Congressional Black Caucus; a member of the Joint Economic Committee; and on the Presidential Commission on the National Agenda for the Eighties.

In 1980, he founded The Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (MBELDEF) and presently serves as chairman of the board.

He holds a total of 14 honorary degrees -- five Doctor of Humane Letters; five Doctor of Law; and four Doctor of Social Sciences.

National and local consumer groups, civil rights groups, business and economic groups, fraternities, sororities, religious groups and educational organizations have presented more than 3000 awards to Mr. Mitchell. He has received awards from such diverse groups as The National Alliance of Black Educators; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Morehouse College Alumni; the Joint Center for Political Studies; the Greater New Haven (Connecticut) Business and Professional Association; the Minority Contractors of Dayton, Ohio, the Alaska Black Caucus; and the Consumer Federation of America.

It has been said of him, "Parren's emotions are those of a Patrick Henry . . . he didn't say give me liberty later . . . Parren is one of God's angry men."

Harriet R. Michel

President
National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)

Harriet R. Michel is the president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), a private non-profit organization that expands business opportunities for minority-owned companies of all sizes.

The NMSDC Network, which includes 39 affiliated regional councils, matches more than 15,000 certified minority businesses (Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American) with its more than 3,500 corporate members that want to purchase their goods and services. In 2002, NMSDC member corporations' purchases from minority-owned businesses reached nearly $72 billion.

Ms. Michel is a noted administrator and public policy expert on minority issues. She has worked for over 30 years in the public sector developing and managing programs that address major social concerns.

Before joining NMSDC in September 1988, Ms. Michel was a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, where she taught a course on politics and public policy issues and wrote about black leadership.

From 1983 to February 1988, Ms. Michel was president and chief executive officer of the New York Urban League -- the first woman to head the New York Urban League, largest of the National Urban League's 113 affiliates, since its founding in 1919.

From 1977 to 1979, Ms. Michel was director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Community Youth Employment Programs/CETA in Washington, D.C., where she supervised the allocation of $2 billion for employment and training programs.

As executive director of the New York Foundation from 1972 to 1977, Ms. Michel was the first black woman to head a major foundation. She is a founding member of the Association of Black Foundation Executives and has been a board member of the Council on Foundations. While serving as an assistant to New York Mayor John Lindsay in 1971-1972, Ms. Michel helped coordinate the anti-drug efforts of the city's public agencies.

She was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters in 1990 from Baruch College in New York. Ms. Michel has lectured at the Harvard Law School, the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, the University of California at Fresno and the University of Florida.

Ms. Michel is the recipient of numerous awards that include inaugural Champion Award during the 2003 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference; 2003 Ronald H. Brown Leadership Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency; 2002 Building Bridges Award from the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Pioneer Award from Minority Business News USA / Billion Dollar Roundtable.

Ms. Michel and her husband, Yves Michel, are small-business owners. They have two married sons and make their home in Harlem. Born in Pittsburgh, Ms. Michel received a bachelor of arts degree from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Penn., with a major in sociology / criminology

James H. Lowry

Global Diversity Director
The Boston Consulting Group

Nationally recognized workforce and supplier diversity expert James H. Lowry is the global diversity director for The Boston Consulting Group. In that capacity, he lead's the firm's workforce diversity, ethnic marketing and minority business development consulting practice. Prior to joining BCG, Jim had his own firm, James H. Lowry & Associates (JHLA), which was established in 1975. In 1978, JHLA prepared the first major study on minority business enterprise development for The Department of Commerce entitled, New Strategy for Minority Business . Because of that firm's unique ability to assist Fortune and government clients in addressing a range of complex business issues, Consulting News selected JHLA as one of the top 100 management consultants in the United States. Jim has been providing outstanding services to clients for over 30 years, which list include such companies as: American Express, Caterpillar, Ford Motor Company, Hyatt Hotels, McKinsey & Company, Morgan Stanley and PepsiCo.

Lowry held various positions with the U.S. Peace Corps including associate director in Lima, Peru. He later was assistant to the president of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp. and was a senior associate for McKinsey & Company, serving in London, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Lowry received his undergraduate degree in political science from Grinnell College and a master's degree in public international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. He attended the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School and was elected president of his class. His honors include: Illinois Minority Business Advocate; Honorary Doctor of Law, Elmhurst College; National Outstanding Business Professional by Blackbook ; "Who's Who Among Black Americans"; "Who's Who in the Midwest"; "Men of Achievement" - Eighth Worldwide Edition; and "Personalities of the West and Midwest."

Mr. Lowry is an adjunct professor, J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management; Northwestern University Board of Directors; chairman, Durban, South Africa/Chicago Sisters Cities Committee; Commercial Club; Economic Club of Chicago; Northwestern Memorial Hospital; Chicago United; Grinnell College; Chicago Public Library Foundation; and the Chicago Public Library. He is presently a member of the Howard School of Business board and also serves as chairman for the Howard University Entrepreneurship Center. He was a member of the Chicago Council of Foreign Relations, Harvard Business School Visiting Committee and associate producer of MBR: THE MINORITY BUSINESS REPORT.

Dr. Renaldo M. Jensen

Director, Supplier Diversity Development
Ford Motor Company

Renaldo M. Jensen, director of Ford Supplier Diversity Development (SDD), has held this position since 1987. SDD works to enrich and expand Ford's business relationships with its minority suppliers.

Previously, Jensen was supervisor of Advanced Concepts, Advanced Engineering Design Staff. He joined Ford in 1978, working in the Design Center as a principal design engineer in aerodynamics.

A former Air Force officer, Jensen has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He has a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio. He was awarded a doctorate in aerospace-mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1970.

During his 20 years with the Air Force, Jensen held several command and staff positions at the Pentagon. Additionally, he was an assistant professor of aerospace-mechanical engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology and held an adjunct professorship of mechanical engineering at Howard University. Jensen attained the rank of lieutenant colonel when he left the service to join Ford.

He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and The Combustion Institute.

Earl G. Graves, Sr.

Chairman and CEO
Earl G. Graves LTD

Earl G. Graves is a nationally recognized authority on Black business development and the founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, a business-service publication targeted to black professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and policy makers in the public and private sector. Today Mr. Graves serves as Chairman and CEO of Earl G. Graves LTD., parent corporation for the Earl G. Graves Publishing Company, which publishes Black Enterprise .

Mr. Graves received his B.A. degree in economics from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. After graduating from the school's ROTC program, he attended Airborne and Ranger School and finished his Army career as a captain in the 19th Special Forces Group of the Green Berets. He is also the recipient of the U.S. Army Commendation Award. Mr. Graves has received honorary degrees from more than 60 colleges and universities -- including his alma mater.

Mr. Graves was an administrative assistant to the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy from 1965 to 1968. After Sen. Kennedy's assassination, Mr. Graves formed a management consulting firm to advise corporations and major multinational companies on urban affairs and economic development. In 1972, he was named one of the 10 Most Outstanding Minority businessmen in the country by the President of the United States, and received the National Award of Excellence in recognition of his achievements in minority business enterprise. Time Magazine named him one of its 200 Future Leaders of the country in 1974. He is also listed in Who's Who in America .

In 1999, Mr. Graves received the 84 th NAACP Springarn Medal -- the highest achievement award for African Americans. In 2002, Fortun e Magazine named Mr. Graves one of the 50 most powerful and influential African Americans in corporate America. In 2004, Mr. Graves was honored with the Business Pioneer Award from the 50 th Anniversary Commemoration Committee for Brown v. Board of Education .

Mr. Graves serves as a director of Aetna, Inc., AMR Corporation (American Airlines), DaimlerChrysler AG Corporation, Federated Department Stores, Inc., Rohm & Haas Corporation, and is chairman of the Pepsi African-American Advisory Board.

Elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000, Mr. Graves is continually sought after as a keynote speaker by small and large corporations, as well as the public and non-profit business sectors. His autobiographical book titled "How to Succeed in Business without Being White" was released in April 1997 and made the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal Business Best Sellers lists. The book was also selected as a finalist for the 1997 Financial Times/Booz-Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award.

Mr. Graves was born in Brooklyn, New York and currently resides in Westchester County with his wife of 44 years, Barbara. Mr. and Mrs. Graves have three sons -- all successful professionals who work in the family's businesses.