Passing the Torch by Gloster B. Current, Jr. in February 2014
When I reflect on the Pitt Black MBA Network, which we affectionately call "PBAN", I think of a continuous relay race. This new alumni network brings together the 300+ Black MBAs from Katz into a formal force for greatness, and I had the honor of running the opening leg on our leadership relay.
The concept of PBAN was born when five black graduates of the 1972 MBA class met in November 2009. The attendees were: Wes Coleman, Gloster Current, John Jenkins, Michael LeBlanc, and Gilbert Melton. Most had not seen each other since the glory days in 1971-1972 when there were 18 black MBA students at Katz. We understood that there had not been as large a number of black business graduate students at Pitt since then. We shared career and personal updates; and pledged to do something for future generations. A larger group of '72 grads met Dean John Delaney in April 2010 at the grand opening of Pican restaurant in Oakland, California hosted by former Polaroid executive, and new restaurant entrepreneur Michael LeBlanc. The group shared our initial objectives which included networking, assisting other black MBAs in career advancement, developing a targeted scholarship program, assisting in board placements, promoting greater entrepreneurial activity, and assisting Pitt with student/faculty minority recruiting.
These original goals became foundational principles formally adopted in October 2010 at the initial Homecoming meeting where representatives from more recent classes attended. We elected interim officers and appointed committees to work on aspects of the eight goals, including developing a formal name and acronym for the group. We also met with existing Katz students. At the February 2012 Black History Month event, our group formed its first Board of Directors and the Board and officers were installed by Dean John Delaney and Dr. Jack Daniel, Distinguished Service Professor.
From this humble start, PBAN accomplished the following:
1. Built its membership from the initial 23 to approximately 140 now.
2. Formed a LinkedIn group......"The Pitt Black MBA Network".
3. Launched a scholarship program under the leadership of Wes Coleman and Kathy Valentine. The 3 scholarship recipients thus far: Braxton McQueen in 2012 and Monique Manning and Brian Burton in 2013.
4. Published a newsletter entitled the "Black Katz Gazette".
5. Supported Katz students during Black History month events in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
6. Sent a contingent to the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) conferences in Atlanta, (2011); Indianapolis (2012); and Houston (2013). We supported Katz students by doing mock interviews and introducing Katz students to our contacts at various companies.
7. Drafted a set of by-laws; which was modified in 2013 by a committee composed of Kathy Valentine, Dr. Pauline Long, Tricina Cash, and Claudia Stevens-Maddox.
8. Formalized a pilot initiative with Katz and these 5 chapters of the NBMBAA: Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Indianapolis; and New Jersey. Katz agreed to award scholarships to students referred by these chapters.
9. Placed PBAN representatives on the boards of the African American Alumni Council (AAAC); Pitt Business Alumni Association, and Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership.
10. PBAN was nominated for the Chancellor's Affirmative Action Award in 2012 at the urging of Dean Delaney.
Effective January 2014 a new slate of officers and Board members now lead PBAN. The new team has an excellent mix of Katz graduates or faculty representing 3 generations of alumni. The new President, Tricina Cash, was among that small group of founding members at Homecoming, 2010. The other officers including VP Administration Kathy Valentine; VP of Operations Floyd Trotman; Secretary Shelby Smith; and Treasurer Wes Coleman represent significant continuity and executive leadership experience to take PBAN to the next level.
As I hand the baton to the next leadership relay runners, I'm happy to have played a role in launching PBAN. Nelson Mandela said....."Education is the most powerful weapon which one can use to change the world". As the future generations employ their weapons, I'm reminded of the poem by R.L. Sharpe:
Each is given a bag of tools;
A shapeless mass and a book of rules.
And each must make,
Before life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
My hope is that this new set of relay runners will accept the torch, and continue to build stepping stones for future generations of Black MBAs from Katz. Hail to Pitt!
Gloster B. Current, Jr., was the 2014 Distinguished Service Recipient. In 2014, he became the PBAN Immediate Past President.