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Dorothy Runner

Civic volunteer Dorothy Runner was born on May 6, 1920, in Nitro, West Virginia; she attended segregated Dunbar Elementary School in Charleston, West Virginia. Runner was an active member of the B-Squares girls service club in a high school, where a significant number of teachers had graduate degrees from Columbia University. Runner graduated from Henry Highland Garnet High School in 1937; that same year, she entered Howard University. While at Howard, Runner joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and was elected Ms. Gridiron. Runner was mentored by Howard's noted theologian, civil rights activist and mystic, the Reverend Howard Thurman. Earning her B.A. degree in social work in 1941, Runner went on to pursue graduate study at the University of Chicago under the guidance of Robert Hess.

While in Chicago, Runner met and married Dr. Charles Runner; she then worked briefly at Provident Hospital before beginning to raise a family. In 1951, Runner moved to Germany where her husband was stationed as an Army physician. While raising her two daughters, Runner's parental activities led her to heightened civic involvement. Active as a member of the AKA's, the Girlfriends, and other women's organizations. Runner developed her friends and associates into a useful network for social change.

Runner served as a board member of the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Urban Gateways; through her participation as a member of the New Provident Foundation, she raised $100,000 for Provident Hospital's Building Fund. Runner received the Outstanding Volunteer Award from the National Society of Fundraising Executives in 1985. Runner was a founding member of the South Side Auxiliary of Planned Parenthood and helped establish the 63rd Street Outpatient Clinic; she was also a founding member the Hyde Park\Kenwood Auxiliary of the Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society. As a member of the board of advisers of the Museum of Science and Industry's annual Black Creativity Exhibit, Runner continued to be a valuable contributor to the community.

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Dunbar Elementary School

Dunbar Primary School

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Favorite Season

Fall, Spring


West Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hilton Head, South Carolina

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Favorite Food

Beef, Vegetables, Fish, Chicken

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Civic volunteer Dorothy Runner (1920 - 2010 ) was an organizer for women's and health issues. Runner was a founding member of the South Side Auxiliary of Planned Parenthood and helped establish the 63rd Street Outpatient Clinic.


Provident Hospital

Favorite Color

Bright Colors

Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dorothy Runner Interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dorothy Runner's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dorothy Runner details her family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dorothy Runner discusses her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dorothy Runner remembers a racist incident in her youth

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dorothy Runner gives more information about her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dorothy Runner shares her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dorothy Runner reflects upon her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dorothy Runner details the strong neighborhood bonds of Charleston, West Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dorothy Runner recalls a Jim Crow experience on the train

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dorothy Runner remembers her elementary school days

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dorothy Runner discusses the impact of neighborhood segregation on education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dorothy Runner recalls her involvement in school and church activities

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dorothy Runner recalls a high school mentor

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dorothy Runner discusses Dr. Howard Thurman's guidance in her life

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dorothy Runner describes the racism she experienced at the University of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dorothy Runner reflects upon a childhood study she conducted at University of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dorothy Runner discusses her involvement with several organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dorothy Runner talks about how she met her husband

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dorothy Runner recalls her daughters' early educational experiences and later success

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dorothy Runner discusses her involvement in various Chicago organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dorothy Runner describes her interest and involvement in the arts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dorothy Runner details her concerns for black urban youth in Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dorothy Runner shares the role of religion in her life and in the community

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dorothy Runner discusses her relationship with the Illinois Humane Society

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dorothy Runner explains parental involvement and its influence in early childhood education

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dorothy Runner offers her opinion on corporal punishment of children

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dorothy Runner shares her methodology for avoiding child abuse

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dorothy Runner shares her hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dorothy Runner discusses the Black Creativy program

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dorothy Runner reveals she isn't much of a politician

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dorothy Runner contemplates her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dorothy Runner considers how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and husband Charles Runner, wedding day, 1945

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and members of the Urban Gateways, ca. 2001

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Dorothy Runner, John Hope Franklin and others

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and husband Charles Runner

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and members of The Girlfriends, 2003

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and members of the Girlfriends, ca. 2000

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Ann Collins and unnamed officers of The Girlfriends

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Dorothy Runner's mother Lillian Walker, ca. 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo - Ricardo Millett's daughter Maya and unidentified woman

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Photo - Anne Steptoe and Hanna Gillespie

Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and unidentified group of women

Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Photo - Dorothy Runner's husband Charles Runner

Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and Margaritte Hodge, Germany, ca. 1953-1954

Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Photo - Portrait of Dorothy Runner

Tape: 4 Story: 21 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and her daughter boarding an airplane, ca. 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 22 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and members of the regional office of Soc. Serv. Mental Hygene, Chicago, Illinois 1951

Tape: 4 Story: 23 - Photo - Dorothy Runner and unidentified girl

Tape: 4 Story: 24 - Photo - Dorothy Runner's friend Veonas Bera

Tape: 4 Story: 25 - Photo - Dorothy Runner's parents Hobert and Lillian Walker

Tape: 4 Story: 26 - Photo - Alvin Ailey dancer Denise Jefferson

Tape: 4 Story: 27 - Photo - Dorothy Runner's daughter, Dr. Susan Runner

Tape: 4 Story: 28 - Photo - Dorothy Runner's grandson Benjamin

Tape: 4 Story: 29 - Photo - Dorothy Runner

Tape: 4 Story: 30 - Photo - Collage of Dorothy Runner and other Northeasterners







Dorothy Runner recalls a Jim Crow experience on the train
Dorothy Runner discusses her involvement in various Chicago organizations
But during the winter, I'm, we were in school all the time. I could sit in the, in the--I do remember when I was in high school that I had to go on the streetcars, they called it then, to [Henry Highland] Garnet High School [Charleston. West Virginia]. And that was a long way, which I suppose at my age, going to high school, that might not have been so good at that time. But I never had any problems. I never realized that until, one time decided to take the train from, take the train to--from Howard [University, Washington, D.C.] , I think it was, to West Virginia. And I felt, I got into the train and I was seated, and a black curtain fell down in front of my face when I got to Virginia because of segregation.$$They actually dropped a curtain?$$Oh, yes. A big black curtain came down to separate you. And when, you know the thing happened to Rosa Parks [civil rights pioneer], is when she wouldn't get seated, I said, oh, my goodness. But interestingly enough, the next time I took that train, I didn't sit down. I just walked the aisle. And the porters on the train encouraged me but I never was ever hurt or anybody ever said anything to me.$Now, tell me about some of your activities, because you've had, an extensive, I guess, an extensive list of volunteer activities that you've been involved with.$$Well, I'm, on the Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago [Illinois]. And I'm on the Women's Board of the Art Institute of Chicago. I am on the Board of Directors of Urban Gateways of Chicago [youth art education foundation]. And this Holy Family Lutheran School [Chicago, Illinois] that I work with. I'm on the Vesting Committee of the School of Social Work where I graduated from at the University of Chicago [Chicago, Illinois]. And I wrote them all down too. My husband [Charles Runner] is on the Lyric Opera [of Chicago] Board of Trustees. And we're very much interested in things that they're doing in terms of outreach. But the thing that is so exciting I think, is the kind of thing that I have been doing with black creativity at the Museum of Science and Industry [Chicago, Illinois], where we try to--I'm on that advisory board. And what we do is to be sure that, that the public is aware of the contributions that blacks have made in science. And now some of the larger museums have taken on an outreach program, which they had never did before, when I first came to Chicago. And just recently they had one of the most outstanding programs of, which is very similar to what we did at the Museum of Science and Industry, where the contributions of black Americans in the arts. And my husband and I are very much interested in the arts too.