Hazel N. Dukes, President , NAACP NEW YORK STATE CONFERENCE
“I am saddened to learn of the transition of one of our heroes Ralph Dickerson. In remembrance of Ralph and his transition in the month that we celebrate African American History. He was a history maker in every endeavor that he led or participated in. He was a great counselor, mentor and friend to African Americans throughout this country Diaspora. He will surely be missed but his memories and his guidance will keep us in the struggle for equity and justice, Rest in Peace.”
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Ursula James, Director of Communications, University Relations, Office of the President
Ralph Dickerson was a force of nature, always ready with a story, a big laugh, and a wise observer. We were so proud and excited when he chose to come to VUU after a long and successful career. The University has never been the same. He challenged us all to work at a higher level and always focused on empowering our students through scholarship opportunities.
He will be missed tremendously.
– Virginia Union University family
A Tribute to Ralph Dickerson Jr from Virginia Union University
Virginia Union University mourns the passing of Executive Leader Ralph Dickerson Jr. on February 12, 2023.
Ralph Dickerson, warmly referred to as RD, served as the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at VUU. His bold leadership guided the university’s development team to surpass its goals and celebrate historic fundraising levels. This success helped to fund scholarships for students and to aid in the restoration of our historic buildings.
He led the team during the global pandemic and helped them to sustain fundraising and in 2021, he helped to launch VUU’s $30 million Sprint campaign.
“Ralph Dickerson was brilliant in the art of fundraising and bought a wealth of experience to Virginia Union University,” said Hakim J. Lucas, President and CEO of Virginia Union University. “I have followed Dickerson’s work for many years and valued his leadership at the United Way of New York. I am grateful for his service and the impact he made at VUU.”
Although the work of fundraising is a serious undertaking, RD always made time to check on everyone’s well-being. He brought joy and laughter to all meetings and gatherings. Ralph Dickerson’s cheerful personality and honest conversations were always entertaining, and most often inspiring. He will be greatly missed by all who worked with him and considered him a friend.
RALPH DICKERSON became the President & CEO of United Way of New York City in 1988. Under his leadership, the organization grew to become the largest private funder of human services in NYC and the largest United Way in the nation. Prior to his tenure at UWNYC Ralph held executive positions for more than 25 years in various local United Way’s:
St. Louis, Missouri 1970-76
Madison, Wisconsin 1977-81
Cleveland, Ohio 1981-84
Pittsburgh, Penn. 1984-88
During his tenure, he founded “The Alliance”, a group dedicated to creating leadership pathways for African Americans in the United Way system.
Ralph was the recipient of numerous awards for his outstanding leadership:
The New York Urban Coalition, Gorgeous Mosaic Award for his contribution to racial, ethnic harmony in NYC, New York Urban League, Frederick Douglass Award, the highest honor the League bestows for outstanding contribution to the cause of equal opportunity, Awards from the Human Services Council, Lawyer’s Alliance, and the Pius XII prestigious Medal of Life.
Ralph spearheaded and funded numerous NYC organizations such as the Federations representing the religious and ethnic diversity of New York, The Faith Center for Community Development, Black Agency Executives, The Human Services Council and Black Equity Alliance. Ralph was talking about “equity” long before it became term d’art.
But, Ralph Dickerson made his mark on New York City following the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Centers, a devastating blow to a NYC already suffering from recession. In addition to the 2,650 lives lost, the cost to the city’s economy was estimated at between 65-125 Billion dollars. Low wage workers were likely to bear a significant portion of the cost over the coming years in the form of lost jobs, reduced earnings, and fewer employment opportunities.
As the largest private funder of health and human services in NY, UWNYC was well versed in the problems of the City’s low wage workers and immigrant communities long before 9/11 cost many of them their livelihoods and exacerbated the impact of the economic slowdown. Ralph knew that people needed help and they needed it immediately. They didn’t need a lot of bureaucracy, they didn’t need a lot of talk, they needed immediate help and support. Under Ralph’s leadership the UWNYC, and the New York Community Trust moved quickly to create the September 11th Fund. The Fund raised and allocated $300 Million dollars. The Fund brought together nonprofit agencies, government, religious organizations, foundations, and corporations to identify the most critical needs of those affected by the attack, and the method to deliver services and means to meet their needs.
Ralph will be remembered by the United Way staff as strong, compassionate, caring and loving. Always available to talk with staff about their jobs, their families, their goals, and aspirations. In addition to professional development including how to conduct yourself during Board meetings, he often allowed his senior team to present at these meetings, he even offered often unsolicited but valuable suggestions about dress and proper attire. When one staff member became a Vice President, he suggested that she buy one good suit, a St. John, a pair of good pumps and even the right shade of stockings. He said that way you will always look classic and well groomed.
He was highly respected by the Board of Directors because of his expertise and knowledge. He always brought a sense of humor and lightness to meeting, once he opened the meeting by playing “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, at first, they were baffled but Ralph had them all singing, howling, and laughing in short order.
Ralph was a giant among men, it was not only his physical size, but he also possessed a larger-than-life personality. Always “sharp as a tack” and with a broad, infectious smile, Ralph could command any room in which he found himself. He was equally comfortable with Captains of industry and the brothers on the corner. Ralph sat at the head of many tables. His presence ensured that there was always a place for those who did not enjoy his privilege or opportunity.
Ralph’s influence and reach within our community was towering. For many of us in the human services sector, Ralph was a ladder, reaching back, and down to elevate our people, our causes and the emerging leaders who would come after him. Like all of us, he had an ego, but he could take strong, direct, critical feedback from you and still embrace you as a friend and a colleague.
A servant leader, Ralph made you feel special and let you know that he cared deeply and was never too busy to remind you of it. He left a powerful leadership legacy.
With fond memories,
Dr. Melba Butler
Dr. Megan McLaughlin
Hon. Dennis M. Walcott
On behalf of leaders of the Human Services Sector