The Executive Leadership Council
It all began with Alvaro L. Martins, a Cleveland native and top Xerox sales executive who brought together 18 corporate men and one woman to form The Executive Leadership Council in 1986. Mr. Martins was a corporate pioneer noted for mentoring African-American leaders in higher education and corporate America. As an executive at IBM and then Xerox in the early 1960s, his world was one where few blacks had found acceptance in the halls of corporate America or pathways to executive leadership. There were no black CEOs among the Fortune 500 CEOs, few blacks on corporate executive tracks, and even fewer black senior corporate executive women.
In 1986, Mr. Martins invited a few of his corporate friends to meet in Dallas, TX to discuss saving Bishop College, an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) experiencing hard financial times. They, in turn, invited other black corporate leaders. Within months, the executives who united to save Bishop College realized the power of the network they had formed. They helped keep the school afloat until 1988 when it closed (the former campus is now the home of Paul Quinn College). More importantly, the network became the catalyst for a corporate civil rights movement that brought together early political supporters like Congressmen Parren Mitchell and Charles Rangel, and Senator Edward Kennedy who helped sponsor a meeting for the group of leaders of which 19 became the Founding Members of The Executive Leadership Council.