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The Institute

The Institute Founding

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We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the founders and individuals involved 50 years ago with the founding of the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute.  Our research has revealed there are founders of record and founders of involvement.  They are not necessarily mutually exclusive; however, this blog will be an opportunity to gather as much factual and anecdotal information as possible about the Institute’s founding.  We welcome your input which will assist us tremendously in this effort.  Please offer as much detail as you feel comfortable with including names, dates, events, and context.  The posts will be reviewed before making them public.  Once completed we will make our findings part of the public and institutional record.   Thank you in advance for your participation.


  • Frank E. Kelley says:

    I am a graduate of Boston English High class of 67 as well as an alumni of Northeastern class of 79. John D. O’Bryant was my guidance counselor at English High. Richard thank you for the Great work you’re doing on promoting and advancing the John D. O’Bryant Institute. Looking forward to connecting soon,

    Keep up the Great Work! Bishop F. E. Kelley

  • I did not know Professor Leonard Brown. My name is Larry Bryant. I am from Washington DC. I attended NU for 2 years 1973-75 and have many fond memories of my experiences at the NU’s AAI.
    My mentors back at that time were Ramona Edelin and Ken Edison. There was another brother named Eric…with a ‘Swahili’ name who was also quite active and very influential.

  • [Posted on behalf of Dennis Tolbert]

    As an original member of the steering committee for the African American Association of Northeastern University, who participated in the establishment of the African American Institute at Northeastern University,  I applaud and commend the staff of the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute and the efforts to memorialize the establishment and founding of the original African American Institute at Northeastern University, fifty years ago.

    However, I believe it would be misguided to single out specific individuals and identify them as “founders”, inasmuch as, the establishment of the the institute was a part of a more expansive effort by the black student body at Northeastern, to address issues of racial inequity and diversity as perceived by the black students on the part of Northeastern University.

    The African American Association developed a proposal to present to NU’s administration, which contained a set of demands (10-12, if my memory serves me correctly), which included the following;
    1) Established University admissions criteria that would ensure that, by a specific time frame, ten percent of each incoming freshman class would be African American students.
    2) Increase the number of African American faculty and staff.
    3) Improve and increase community outreach programs.
    4) Establish a transitional summer program for incoming minority students.
    5) Establishment of the African American Institute and expanded African American Studies curriculum.

    The proposal was approved and ratified by the members of the African American Association, (unanimously I would like to believe).

    A steering committee consisting of representatives of both the African American Association and NU Administration, worked together, to finalize the proposal, which was agreed to by then NU President Asa Knolls and VP Ryder.

    The “Institute”, I believe, became and remains the most visible and tangible result of the original proposal/demands presented to the University. The Institute’s establishment and ongoing growth and development could not have been realized without the participation and direct involvement of NU’s African American students.

    Therefore, as I stated previously, rather then list a few “founders”, I would like to provide a list of students, NU faculty and staff who were instrumental in the establishment and ongoing development of the African American Institute.

    Everyone please feel free to correct any errors (names, spelling), or omissions.

    Jim Alexander
    Barbara Allyene
    Jimmy Barnes (Deceased)
    Carol Barnett
    Gloria Blue (Deceased)
    Wendell Bourne
    Regina Campbell
    Jerry Chambers
    Arsenia Delgado
    Dierdre Francis Dickerson
    Priscilla Douglass
    Beth Duvall (Deceased)
    Joseph Feaster
    Delano Farrah
    Karen Flippant
    Cheryl Freeman
    Elmer Freeman
    Mark Freeman 
    Jim Fripp
    Neil Halliday (Deceased)
    Calvert Hocker
    Clarence Holt
    Len Hubbard
    Cliff Janey
    Bill Jackson
    Rick Johnson
    John Levy
    John Lightfoot
    Beverly Mahaffey
    Norvel McDonald
    William Baron Nixon
    Carla Norris
    Ralph Peace (Deceased)
    Bernice Porter
    Jan Porter
    Archie Prilou
    Jim Ranier
    Ella Robertson
    NU Dean Rosenblatt
    NU VP Ryder
    Deborah Sallie
    George Saunders
    Sevy Singleton
    Dennis Tolbert
    James Turner
    Jim Vereen 
    Mabel Weathers
    Ernestine Whiting
    Don Williams
    Leslie Williams (Deceased)

    The list of names I provided is only a partial list culled from my fading memory. I am sure other members would be able to add additional participating students.

    These participants include students that were directly involved in the Institute’s initial development, as well as, those that were involved in contributing to the Institute’s ongoing viability and productivity long after the “old heads” we’re gone.

    You may be able to obtain the original documents in either the Institute’s archives, or the University’s archives.

    You also have the added resources of individuals who remained in, or, are still in, the Boston area and may be able to provide further information and insight;
    Elmer Freeman
    Joe Feaster
    James Turner

    Dennis Tolbert

  • Rindge Leaphart says:

    Boston English graduate 1985 and John D O’Bryant was our commencement speaker – what a powerful speaker! I happened to see him a few days later on Mass Ave and spoke with him as he was very approachable and down to earth! NU graduate of 91 and I spent many a moon studying at the institute. Fond memories of the team that was there – Karen, Rosalind, Dr. Motley, and of course Sydney who wrote a recommendation for me when I applied to business school. I also volunteered some time, unfortunately not enough, to the PRI on Saturdays.

  • Robert Hampton says:

    I was fortunate to attend northeastern university from 1981-84.
    THE TUTE MADE NORTHEASTERN A welcoming place n most importantly place that we could be nurtured n honed our intellectual social n cultural selves

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