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


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.


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.


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.


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.


The Executive Leadership Council unveils their new brand.


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


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.


Arnold W. Donald named President & CEO

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


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


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


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


ELC celebrates 20th Anniversary


Ann Fudge Scholars program established


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)


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


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


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”


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


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


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.”


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”


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


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


Executive Leadership Foundation established

Xerox honored at first Annual Recognition Dinner

First Annual Recognition Dinner held, first issue of CONTACT


First Board and General Membership Meetings held


Founding of ELC in 1986 by 19 African Americans