9:32 PM / Saturday March 2, 2024

26 Oct 2018

OIC of America affiliates convene in Philadelphia for multi-day reunion and celebration of the legacy of founder, Rev. Dr. Leon H. Sullivan

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October 26, 2018 Category: Local Posted by:


ABOVE PHOTO:  Standing (left to right)  : Robert C. Nelson, former president, Philadelphia OIC; Richard C. Portis,  OIC staff alumni, Benjamin Lattimore, director, Career and Academic Development Institute (CADI); Seated (left to right):  Robert Farris, board chair and president, OIC of Wilson (N.C.) and Luddy Hayden of Luddy Hayden and Associates, LLC, OICA supporter.  (Photo Credit- MyNEWPhilly)


Patricia Gilliam Clifford

By Patricia Gilliam Clifford

October 2018 marked a significant milestone for the Opportunities Industrialization Center, OIC of America (OICA). The organization held a reunion of affiliates, partners and supporters who traveled to Philadelphia from as far away as Seattle. The reunion, which had not taken place for several years, was a celebration of the legacy of OIC Founder, Rev. Dr. Leon H. Sullivan. The multi-day event — October 15 – October 17 —was tagged “A Party with a Purpose” and took place at the Wyndham Philadelphia Hotel. The substantive agenda and high level of participation were indicators that OICA’s national presence has experienced a tremendous resurgence. More than fifty years after OIC was launched in Philadelphia, Rev. Sullivan’s vision continues to “Help People to Help Themselves.” 

James C. Haynes is the current OICA president and national board chair. The retired Johnson and Johnson executive and member of Rev. Dr. Sullivan’s National Technical Advisory Committee brings his corporate expertise and dedication to Rev. Dr. Sullivan’s mission and values to the forefront

“Millions of women and men of all races and backgrounds have become productive members of the American workforce because of the training and education provided by OICA,” Haynes said. “As a result of our organization’s expansion to include 34 affiliates in 22 states, our impact is national. It is especially poignant to note that the City of Philadelphia, where OIC was founded and is the home of our national headquarters, has the highest poverty level of any large city in the country. We are working to change that because our mission remains relevant!”

James C. Haynes , OICA president and national board chair. (Photo Credit- MyNEWPhilly)

There were a number of captivating presentations during the course of the event. A presentation titled “Rev. Dr. Leon H. Sullivan, The Man” was shared by prominent Philadelphia attorney Ronald J. Harper and OICA board member and Mable Welborn, board chair of the Leon H. Sullivan Charitable Trust. Both expressed a deep sense of respect and gratitude for Rev. Sullivan, his humanity, wisdom and personal impact on their lives.

“He (Sullivan) baptized me, married me, hired me, trusted me and endorsed me to become chairman of the board of trustees of Zion Baptist Church,” Harper said. “Among the many words he spoke, I will always remember him saying,  ‘Not enough people came through the doors I opened.’

“The man [Sullivan] was an unorthodox minister [by his own definition] and a visionary leader,” Welborn said “He felt strongly about not being misinterpreted or misunderstood by his unorthodox approach to social and human justice. He felt that what happens to people in the community is as important to theological expression as his sermon was on a Sunday morning.”

The children of Rev. Dr. and Grace Sullivan — Hope and Howard Sullivan — also attended. Hope’s presentation, “Rev. Dr. Sullivan, The Father” was very moving as she shared memories of him on October 16, his birthdate.

“Imagine growing up in a household where you never, not one time, heard your father raise his voice towards your mother,” Hope reflected. “Imagine growing up in a household where every time your mother walked in a room, your father stood up. Imagine still getting an Easter basket delivered to you from your father at age 35. Imagine a man who criss-crossed the planet, meeting with presidents and world leaders and would come home and wash the dishes because he knew that my mother’s arthritic hands would often ache so much that she just couldn’t do it.”

(Standing) Paulette Fox, executive director, New Britain, CT and OICA reunion attendees. (Photo Credit- MyNEWPhilly)

This loving daughter’s visionary father set the foundation for educational and community-based programs that are vital to the mission of OICA. The organization administers programs in vocational training, job readiness, healthcare, education, reentry and youth development.

“OICA will continue to expand the national team in order to provide technical assistance, performance management, and support of its network of affiliates, program partners, funders and those who use our services,” Haynes said.

Some of the topics covered during the business portion of the event were: resource development by Louis King, president Summit Academy OIC, Minneapolis, Minn.; community engagement, Steve Schmidbauer, chief operating officer, job training-and affiliate of OIC, Menlo Park, Calif.; apprenticeships, Joseph McFerrin II, president- Portland, Ore. OIC; volunteerism-Luddy Hayden, president of Luddy Hayden and Associates and funder and marketing/public relations by Naja Killebrew, communications manager, OICA.

Presentations were followed by a delightful surprise. Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge entered the room singing the Sister Sledge “anthem,” “We are Family.” Former Philadelphia OIC executive Robert “Bob” Nelson reflected the positive energy of everyone in the room as he stood with others to join in. 

Among the affiliate leaders attending were: Charles Crumbley, Denise Ashe, Jefferey Woodard and Joyce Chester of Pennsylvania; Steve Mitchell of Washington; Harvey Nutter of New Jersey; Steve Schmidbauer of California; Bob Farris of North Carolina; Michael Calabrese of Ohio; William Smith of Louisiana; Louis King of Minnesota; Gene Blue of Arizona; Paulette Fox and Robert Lampkin of Connecticut, Michael Van Leesten of Rhode Island and Ed Greene of Maryland.

Dr. Jamie Bracey-Green, director of STEM education at Temple University, made an impressive presentation on the second day of the event. Dr. Bracey-Green took the initiative to connect with OICA and the organization is ambitiously seeking other such productive partnerships.  This is an example of relationships that are being forged for program and training development on the cutting edge of science, technology and economic development impact.

OICA Senior Director of Operations and Strategy Jason Whyte presented an overview and summary of the organization’s activities. His presentation highlighted an emerging national program, Skills and Opportunities for Achievement & Responsibility (SOAR). SOAR provides comprehensive services to those formally incarcerated, helping them to successfully re-enter their communities and the job market.

The reunion closing made it even more clear why “Party with a Purpose” was a well-chosen theme. The closing party featured the mellow sounds of popular recording artist and former member of The Manhattans, Gerald Alston. Alston is also a driving force in the OICA Ambassadors Program.

Vocalist Tanqueray Hayward also performed and was backed up by Colt Younger and some of Philly’s finest musicians.

Haynes summarized the outcome of the reunion.

“We achieved our goal of sharing Best and Promising Practices in our network that can be shared and leveraged to address challenges in our society relating to education, poverty, unemployment/underemployed and economic empowerment, while also having meaningful and action dialogue about OICA’s mission and our effectiveness in addressing other critical issues.” Haynes also extended special thanks to Gail Younger, OICA Executive Assistant/Coordinator and members of the OICA Team who helped to make the event come to fruition.  Congratulations and best wishes to all members of the OIC of America Family!

About OIC of America:

Rev. Dr. Leon H. Sullivan

In the 1960s, after leading selective patronage campaigns in Philadelphia to expose discriminatory hiring and opened thousands of jobs to African-Americans, the Rev. Dr. Leon H. Sullivan (1922-2001) founded the Opportunities Industrialization Center. (OIC) OIC is a vocational, educational, and life skills training program designed to prepare young men and women for full-time employment. The organization quickly expanded into all corners of the city of Philadelphia and ultimately grew into a national and international movement that trained millions of workers from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Today, OIC of America (OICA) is a national network of community-based organization that delivers results-driven leadership in workforce development. The organization employs best and promising practice programing as targeted intervention to address nation-wide problems that affect the economically disadvantaged. One of these problems is mass incarceration coupled with the high rates of recidivism. Today, OICA has 34 affiliates in 22 states.

For more information about OIC of America, please visit their website,, or call (215) 236-4500 or email [email protected]

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