Academic administrator and nonprofit executive Deborah Jackson was born in 1952. She enrolled at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, but transferred to Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts where she received her B.A. degree in 1974, and her M.S. degree in urban studies and planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1975.
Jackson began her career as a policy analyst and then was promoted to deputy director of the Health Care and Income Security Group at Abt Associates Inc. Jackson then worked as the executive director of the Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center. In 1989, she became the first female and African American president and CEO of Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, Inc., From there, Jackson was hired as the senior vice president for Network Development and Community Service at Boston Children’s Hospital. She went on to become the vice president for program at the Boston Foundation, where she managed the $50 million grant and initiatives program. In 2002, Jackson was named CEO of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay. During her time there, she led the organization to increase its coverage area. In 2011, Jackson was selected president of Cambridge College.
Jackson was selected a Barr Foundation fellow in 2009, and a fellow at Harvard University's Advanced Leadership Initiative Program. Jackson received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Curry College in 2014. She was a senior fellow at Boston University's Graduate School of Business/Institute for Non-profit Management and Leadership; and a fellow of the British-American Project of Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies.
She served on the American Red Cross National Diversity Advisory Council, and as the lead director of the board of directors for Eastern Bank. She was a board member of the American Student Assistance Corporation for over fifteen years, as well as serving on the boards of Roxbury Community College, Boston College Carroll School of Management Advisory Board, Northeastern University Corporation, Milton Academy and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.
Jackson has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award for Achievement in Management, Boston Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Women in Boston,” El Planeta Newspaper’s “100 Most Influential People for Latinos,” and she has been inducted into the Women’s Business Hall of Fame.
She and her husband, architect L. Duane Jackson, have two sons: Leigh Jackson and Jeffrey Jackson.
Deborah Jackson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 23, 2018.