ELC History

The Executive Leadership Council is the preeminent member organization for the development of global black leaders. Our mission is to increase the number of successful black executives — both domestically and internationally — by adding value to their development, leadership, and philanthropic endeavors throughout the life-cycle of their careers thereby strengthening their companies, organizations, and communities.

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.


our history


2018

Ronald C. Parker retires and Skip Spriggs is named President and CEO

The Executive Leadership Council moves into a new space in the heart of Washington, DC.


2017

The ELC presents Nationwide with the Diamond Leadership Award, which applauds $1 million corporate contributions toward ELC initiatives or new programs within a calendar year, for its contribution to establish Nationwide's Future Leaders Scholarship Program.

The Executive Leadership Council hosts its first-ever international membership meeting in London.


2016

The Executive Leadership Council celebrates its 30th Anniversary during a gala at the Marriott Marquis, featuring a performance by Janelle Monae.

The ELC becomes a proud Founding Donor to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture with a gift of $1 Million.

The Executive Leadership Foundation achieves a new organizational construct involving the transfer and dissolution of the assets from The Executive Leadership Council to become a single 501(c)(3) under the name The Executive Leadership Council.

The Executive Leadership Council Institute for Leadership Development & Research introduces the C-Suite Academy, in collaboration with McKinsey & Company and based on The ELC’s CEO Academy, to help black executives strengthen their standing in the extremely competitive C-Suite.

The Institute for Leadership Development & Research releases its Black Women Executives Research Initiative Revisited study, providing a roadmap for increasing the representation of black women in leadership posts.


2015

The ELC expands its membership to include entrepreneurs, thought leaders and board members to augment the traditional membership of corporate leaders.

The Executive Leadership Council introduces the Next Generation CEO Academy, powered by Deloitte, to provide participants with insights from current black CEOs and global thought leaders.


2014

The Executive Leadership Council unveils their new brand.


2012

Arnold Donald steps down and Ronald C. Parker is named President and CEO after serving a brief term as interim.


2011

The Executive Leadership Council celebrates its 25th Anniversary during a gala at the Gaylord National, featuring a performance by Diana Ross.

ELC Members endorse strategic goals to a net increase of African American representation in C-suites by 500 and an increase of 200 African Americans in board seats of publicly traded companies in 5 years.


2010

Arnold W. Donald named President & CEO

Carl Brooks retires as President & CEO after a decade; Lawrence Drake becomes Interim CEO


2009

ELC strengthens relationship with Obama Administration with member led working groups and continued meetings and events

ELC honors Inauguration of nation’s 1st African-American president, Barack Obama, with reception for members and guests


2008

ELC hosts its Annual Recognition Dinner for the first time in New York City


2007

ELC moves into larger offices on the banks of the Potomac in Alexandria, Virginia


2006

ELC celebrates 20th Anniversary


2005

Ann Fudge Scholars program established


2002

Institute for Leadership Development and Research is established with over $2.3 million in support from BP

With support of Goldman Sachs, ELC launches pilot Business Case Competition

In partnership with the National Association of Corporate Directors, ELC holds 1st session of Corporate Board Development Initiative (sponsored by Philip Morris)


2001

ELC holds 1st Annual CEO Diversity Leadership Summit

Council member Carl Brooks named to lead ELC as President & CEO

The Alvaro L. Martins Scholarship Fund established, two scholarships awarded to Howard Univ. students


2000

Council member Dr. Price Cobbs and ELC collaborator Judy Turnock publish “Cracking The Corporate Code”, highlights 32 ELC members


1999

Next Generation Network, Inc. (NGN) is established by ELC to build the pipeline of African-American corporate leaders

The newly designed CONTACT newsletter launches with ELC’s branded tagline; “The Power of Inclusive Leadership”


1998

Al Martins, co-founder and 1st president of ELC, passes; the Heritage Award is renamed the “Alvaro L. Martins Heritage Award”


1996

ELC launches “The Technology Transfer Project” (TTP) with Wilberforce, Hampton, and Lincoln universities as three pilot institutions

ELC celebrates 10th anniversary, 19 founding members honored at 10th Annual Recognition Dinner


1995

American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault receives Achievement Award at dinner

First Annual National Business Commentary “Essay Contest” is held with the generous support of The Coca-Cola Company, founding and continuing sponsor, and ELC member Ingrid Saunders Jones

First Mid-level Managers Symposium held - “Taking Control of Your Job and Career.”


1994

ELC members attend inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa

Jean Bertrand-Aristide, President of Haiti, addresses the Council

ELC co-founders Al Martins and Buddy James are presented with first ELC “President’s Rings”


1993

ELC celebrates 5th Annual Recognition Dinner with address by then President Bill Clinton


1992

ELC and Howard University partner to create “The Executive Leadership Scholars Program”, another show of ELC’s commitment to undergraduate education


1989

Executive Leadership Foundation established

Xerox honored at first Annual Recognition Dinner

First Annual Recognition Dinner held, first issue of CONTACT


1987

First Board and General Membership Meetings held


1986

Founding of ELC in 1986 by 19 African Americans