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Harriet Michel, Business Executive and Juniata Alumna, to Make Commencement Address

(Posted April 26, 2010)

Harriet Richardson Michel, a 1965 Juniata graduate and one of the students who led a Juniata contingent to Selma and Montgomery, Alabama to work for civil rights, will receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address on May 15.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. --Harriet Richardson Michel, president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council and a 1965 graduate of Juniata College, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and deliver the commencement address at Juniata's 132nd Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 15 on the Juniata campus.

Richardson, who graduated in a year of earthshaking moral changes at Juniata and throughout the country, will address the graduating class in an academic year that has been historic for the college. The college opened a newly renovated Founders Hall, the college's original classroom building, and convened classes in the building for the first time in decades. In addition, Founders Hall earned a LEED Gold rating, thanks to such "green features" as a geothermal heating and cooling system, use of recycled building materials and many other features.

Michel's professional career has been focused on increasing opportunities for minorities and minority-owned businesses. The National Minority Supplier Development Council is a non-profit organization that seeks to expand business opportunities for minority-owned companies. The council's NMSDC Network matches more than 15,000 businesses owned by people of African-American, Asian, Native American and Hispanic descent with more than 3,500 corporate members who can purchase their goods and services.

She also has been active at Juniata, serving as a member of Juniata's board of trustees from 1989 to 2004. In 2004 she was voted trustee emerita by the board.

Her sense of public duty has served Harriet Richardson Michel well, and dates back to before her college career at Juniata. In her senior year at the college, the Pittsburgh native was one of a group of Juniata students to travel to Selma and Montgomery, Alabama as part of a countrywide effort to bring attention to the civil rights abuses that were brought to national attention by "Bloody Sunday," an attack on peaceful marchers on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge. College students were asked by civil rights leaders to travel south to participate in protests.

A contingent of Juniata students heeded the call. When Harriet Richardson, Juniata faculty and other students arrived in Alabama, they participated in several gatherings and marches. During one of these events, policemen attacked the demonstrators, including some of the Juniata students. A local photographer, Charles Moore (who passed away in March) who later became a renowned photographer in his own right, took photos of Richardson tending to a bloodied Galway Kinnell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who was serving as a Juniata artist-in-residence in 1965. This photo and several others were featured in a photo spread in Life magazine.

More recently, Michel has expanded the influence of the NMSDC, as members of the council purchased nearly $105 billion in goods and services from minority-owned businesses. She has led the council since 1988.

Before signing on with the council, Michel was president and chief executive officer of the New York Urban League from 1983 to 1988, where she was responsible for services provided to more than 70,000 New Yorkers through more than 20 programs focused in education, employment, housing and health and social services. She was the first woman to head the New York Urban League. Just after leaving her job at the Urban League, Michel was a resident fellow at the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics at Harvard University, where she taught a course on politics and public policy issues.

Michel has had vast experience in administering political and service projects. Just a few years after graduating from Juniata, she served then-New York City Mayor John Lindsay from 1971 to 1972 to coordinate the anti-drug programs within the city's public agencies. In 1972 she became executive director of the New York Foundation, making history as the first African-American woman to head a major foundation. She later became a founding member of the Association of Black Foundation Executives and has served on the board for the Council on Foundations.

In 1977, she joined the federal government as director of the Office of Community Youth Employment Programs/CETA for the U.S. Department of Labor. As director she supervised allocation of more than $2 billion for employment and training programs until leaving in 1979.

In addition to her executive career, she also established the Women Against Crime Foundation in 1981 at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and then served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. While there, she developed a statewide model fair-housing program for the state of North Carolina

She has been a tireless volunteer for education, serving as director of special projects for the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students. She also created the first national college fair for African-American students and has served as a member of the New York City Board of Higher Education and as a vice chair of the New York State Advisory Council on Post-Secondary Education.

Michel has served on numerous boards of directors and has been a member of the National Advisory Council for the Small Business Administration. She also has traveled to South Africa as a member of three Agency for International Development missions to consult on small business and minority business development.

She has been honored by numerous awards, among them the 2006 "50 Most Powerful Women in Business," by Black Enterprise magazine, a 2005 induction into the Minority Business Hall of Fame and the 2004 Hall of Fame Award from Enterprising Woman Magazine.

She received a honorary doctorate degree in 1990 from Baruch College in New York. In addition, she has taught or lectured at Harvard Law School, Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School and the University of Florida.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.