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Message from the President: Black History Month

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ARNOVA is now celebrating 50 years. At the start of that 50th year, I was in the first months of my role as board President. What is especially notable is that I am the first African American person serving in this role.


I have been an ARNOVA member since the early 1990s – when I first attended a conference at Yale in New Haven, CT – as an Assistant Professor at the New School University in NYC. Since then, I have held a number of roles – primarily in academe, but not always as a faculty person. In fact, another striking feature of my being ARNOVA President is that I am a “pracademic” instead of being a researcher/scholar in the field, which has been the tradition.


Frankly, I was surprised when I won. I realized that my race was not a barrier, and that my being a “pracademic” was not either. I would never have imagined that previously.


It made me reflect on my family history and some of the changes over time.


Back in 1948 when my mother graduated with her masters’ degree in speech pathology from Northwestern – and had the GPA for honors – her professors told her that despite her qualifying GPA, the University would not give her honors – solely due to her race. Race was the barrier – but not because of any law, but rather because of what people felt was appropriate or acceptable.


Fast forward to 2019. ARNOVA’s membership voted for me to become President of the association. I was a Black woman. So, race wasn’t a barrier. Perhaps it was viewed as an opportunity.


I’ve “paid my dues” in ARNOVA over the years, to be sure. In addition to other roles, I served on the board for the first time in the 1990s. I planned a plenary session on “Philanthropy in Communities of Color” and edited an occasional paper about it. Along with my colleagues, Jennifer Wade-Berg and Judy Weisinger I co-founded the “Diversity Scholars and Leaders Professional Development program”.


But another dimension – not to be overlooked or minimized as I serve in this role – is that I am also a role model. There are those within our membership who smiled and felt proud that someone who “looked like them” was in this role. Why does that matter? It signifies possibilities and hope for change. It inspires. I recall that during the annual meeting at the San Diego conference – when a member of AROCSA stood and inquired whether I – as the Pres-Elect at that time – would be joining the ARNOVA contingent to attend the AROCSA conference in South Africa in 2020. The confirmation of that was meaningful to many in the room – again in terms of my being a first and serving as a role model.


Unfortunately, in 2020, COVID-19 intervened, and international travel and opportunities to be more visible in additional settings was put on hold. That “hold” continues.


Yet the significance of my tenure will be meaningful – not only for work that we accomplished – but that it happened at all. Some BIPOC students may have a different interest in ARNOVA because they see a woman of color in the role of board president – which speaks of possibilities for them. It’s not about me personally. When we speak about the “pipeline” of BIPOC individuals entering the research, academic, practitioner leadership space in civil society/nonprofit/philanthropic sectors, having visible evidence of possibilities for involvement does matter. Of course, it’s not everything. But it helps in surprising ways. Still, there remains much to be done. I hope that ARNOVA continues in our journey to always be open to possibilities that encourage everyone to contribute their gifts and passions to the work – through this vehicle of a professional association whose focus is philanthropic sector research to improve civil society and human life.


Pier C. Rogers, ARNOVA President

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