A man who cared deeply and gave it all he had
It is easy at this time when we have lost a great friend and outstanding community leader to be sad, for this loss is natural, but it is also a time to express full appreciation for the fullness of the person and his contribution to the advancement of humankind.
Ralph Dickerson Jr. was a dedicated advocate, leader of community activities and community organizations. He was a genius at what he did and did it with the warmth, charm and pleasantries that touched those around him. Ralph was a fundraiser with a mission, a mission of engagement, a mission of understanding, and a mission to do the best for the most people.
A man with his brilliance could have chosen many pathways in life and could have been enriched personally by any of these pathways, but he chose to be an advocate for community development and what a success he was in this role.
From the United Way of St. Louis, Wisconsin, Cleveland, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ralph demonstrated success. He went on to take over the United Way of New York City in 1988 and made New York City the most successful United Way organization in the United States and even internationally.
That organization grew in revenue from 7.5 million to 135 million serving the people of New York in the most effective way and having a tremendous impact on other fundraising activities for the United Way.
Ralph Dickerson was serving as President of the United Way of New York City when 9/11 hit – he realized right away that there would be immediate needs of the city and the surrounding communities, immediate needs even before the mechanics of the federal government and local government could be put in place.
Ralph Dickinson marshaled the local corporate community for immediate help for the victims of 9/11. He launched the 9/11 United Way Fund to be administered by United Way to many community and neighborhood organizations. Within a week funds were already flowing to these organizations to work with 9/11 victims and families in a significant way, and Ralph Dickerson organized, managed and pushed through that effort that brought such relief, comfort and resources to a community that was not only bewildered but looking for hope at a very dark time.
That fund that Ralph organized brought hope and relief in a short time, created millions of dollars and was administered throughout the city of New York. Ralph undertook that at a time when he himself was not well and had his own personal issues to deal with, but he worked night and day to see to it that not only were the funds raised but also established, available and properly administered throughout the various organizations that the United Way designated. He sat at his desk late at night through all that crisis, making sure that New Yorkers had someplace to turn to in this time of crisis and upheaval.
Ralph never hesitated to help – when the delegation from the University of the West Indies came to New York to reestablish the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies, and several meetings were held, it was a meeting with Ralph Dickerson that helped to focus the organization around the fundraising mechanism and opportunities that lie in New York. Ralph provided guidance and support in the early years to move that effort from just a concept to a reality and it was through his instrumentality that we had the fundraising events and activities organized in such a way that it was successful.
When the Black Publishers of New York formed the Black Media Alliance of New York to consolidate our effort and be united in the black media world, it was Ralph Dickerson who worked with the many publishers to have the organization focused around the possibilities and to provide the connections that would be helpful in the organization achieving its objective.
Ralph helped with the Medgar Evers College Foundation, when Medgar Evers College was looking to establish its Foundation and to have a real local campaign around raising funds it was Ralph Dickerson who provided the blueprint for the President at that time, Edison O’Jackson, to help the struggling college establish its foundation and started it on a path of fundraising that would make a difference for the students and the community. It was that effort by Ralph to craft this outreach and this blueprint that brought on the success of that Foundation.
I am sure you will hear from others about his work at the Abyssinian Development Corporation, an organization working for housing, schooling, and so many great community services for Harlem and beyond. Ralph stepped in at a critical time to provide leadership for that community.
It was this brave and undaunting spirit that drew people to Ralph and his willingness always to help. We are sure we will hear other stories about Ralph Dickerson Jr. and what he has meant to New Yorkers as a whole and to individual organizations that he has been a part of, and individual lives that he has touched.
Ralph operated inter-generationally with such ease and such understanding and interracially in a clear understanding and appreciation of collaboration and alliance building and what it means to work together. We were personally blessed with his friendship over the many years, and to get to understand the warmth, breadth, and dedication of a human being that is for real.
A human being always giving of himself at all times.
May he rest in peace with love and deep appreciation.
Faye and Karl Rodney, Publishers, New York Carib News.