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Michelle L. Collins

Michelle Lynn Collins was born on March 27, 1960, in Chicago, Illinois. In 1978, Collins graduated from the University of Chicago laboratory schools, where she attended since the first grade. She then went on to earn her undergraduate degree in economics from Yale University in 1982 and her M.B.A. degree from Harvard University in 1986.

Collins began her career in 1986 at William Blair & Company, a Chicago-based investment firm offering investment banking, asset management, equity research, institutional and private brokerage and private capital to individual, institutional, and issuing clients. Collins primarily advised clients on public equity offerings. Her clients were primarily in the direct marketing, distribution and retailing industries and included Henry Schein, Inc., CDW Corporation, Lands’ End, Inc., Coldwater Creek, Inc., and United Stationers, Inc., among other public and private companies. Collins also advised clients on mergers and acquisitions. In 1991, Collins advanced to become a Principal Partner in the Corporate Finance Department of William Blair & Company. In 1997, Collins left the company to start a private equity firm with John Svoboda, called Svoboda, Collins, L.L.C. From 1998 to 2006, Collins served as Managing Director of Svoboda Capital Partners, L.L.C. She was also an Advisory Board member and still serves in that capacity, although she no longer serves as the managing director. The firm focuses its investments on business service companies and value-added distribution businesses. It has over $250 million of capital under management which it invests in middle market companies either through management buyouts, leveraged recapitalizations, or growth equity investments. In addition, Collins was a board member and director of CDW Computer Centers, Inc., from 1996 to 2007. She served as CDW’s Audit Committee Chair for seven years and previously served on their Compensation Committee. From 1999 to 2004, Collins was a board member and a director of Coldwater Creek, Inc., a specialty retailer of women’s apparel, accessories, jewelry, and gift items. Collins has been a board member and past president of Chicago Sinfonietta, helping to restructure the Sinfonietta’s business model and placing it on a more secure financial foundation. In 2003, Collins became a director and board member of Molex, Inc., a global manufacturer of electronics, electrical and fiber optic interconnection products and systems.

Collins is a trustee of The Field Museum, the Chicago Historical Society, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, the Erikson Institute, the Chicago Urban League, the YMCA, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Renaissance Schools Fund. Collins is also a member of several professional and civic organizations in Chicago, including The Chicago Network, The Chicago Finance Exchange, Women Corporate Directors, The Economic Club of Chicago, The Commercial Club of Chicago and the Henry Crown Fellows Program of Aspen Institute.

Accession Number

A2008.023

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/21/2008

Last Name

Collins

Maker Category
Middle Name

Lynn

Occupation
Schools

Isabelle O'Keeffe Elementary School

University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Yale University

Harvard Business School

First Name

Michelle

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

COL17

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Happiness Is Self Sufficient And Thus The End Of Action.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/27/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

French Fries

Short Description

Corporate financial consultant and investment chief executive Michelle L. Collins (1960 - ) co-founded a successful private equity firm, Svoboda, Collins, L.L.C., and served as managing director of the firm from 1998 to 2006.

Employment

Chase Manhattan Bank

William Blair & Company

Svoboda Collins, L.P.

MC Advisory Services, LLC

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:14122,327:14567,333:15368,343:24996,432:26256,453:26676,459:27348,468:36336,621:37680,651:40116,705:40872,715:41964,736:42972,770:44232,792:44904,801:53116,882:56992,956:57448,963:60740,990:63380,1049:64238,1063:69122,1164:71564,1231:73808,1281:81748,1322:83500,1358:84011,1364:91384,1506:91895,1515:104978,1717:105594,1727:114443,1791:114727,1797:115295,1805:125306,2017:125874,2026:129069,2091:141448,2297:141856,2304:142128,2309:146276,2399:152696,2456:157470,2548:159395,2583:164800,2646$0,0:6960,226:7440,236:7920,243:8560,253:9440,265:9920,276:10320,282:13781,298:14065,303:14846,315:17770,352:22955,437:24400,464:27035,517:27375,522:30620,529:31286,541:31804,554:33210,586:34172,600:34838,610:36392,642:42416,730:43575,753:45649,824:53023,874:53368,880:53782,888:54127,896:55852,947:56266,954:57646,985:57922,990:62890,1128:65236,1175:69985,1190:71780,1198:73680,1225:75865,1257:76720,1270:79700,1284:80694,1317:81759,1347:85451,1420:88433,1483:89001,1492:95036,1635:95391,1641:104208,1721:106973,1796:108237,1811:109422,1832:110212,1841:111950,1867:115663,1939:122520,2057:122982,2066:126660,2118:127375,2132:127895,2141:128675,2162:129130,2170:130625,2208:141870,2453:142195,2459:143300,2487:145250,2532:145640,2539:154925,2609:155225,2624:156125,2639:156425,2644:157325,2657:157850,2677:158150,2682:158825,2693:160700,2724:165725,2818:167000,2842:171425,2943:177360,2970:178020,3013:182112,3160:183366,3196:184488,3219:188611,3244:192060,3309
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Michelle L. Collins' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins describes her mother's community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins talks about her surname

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Michelle L. Collins describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Michelle L. Collins recalls the role of music in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her parents' lessons about the importance of family

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins describes her parents' role in the South Side community of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her early educational experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins talks about the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her early interest in mathematics

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her mentors at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins describes her high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins describes her social life

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her high school coursework at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Michelle L. Collins talks about her prom

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Michelle L. Collins talks about the Jackson Park Highlands District of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins remembers the activism in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins recalls the notable residents of the Jackson Park Highlands District of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins remembers Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her classmates at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins describes her coursework at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins recalls joining the men's squash team at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins remembers Yale University President A. Bartlett Giamatti

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins recalls the notable figures at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins describes her position at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her decision to attend the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her class at the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins describes her coursework at the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her professors at Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon the importance of networking in business school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins recalls joining William Blair and Company, LLC

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins describes her role at William Blair and Company, LLC, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins describes her role at William Blair and Company, LLC, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her colleagues at William Blair and Company, LLC

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins describes her clients at William Blair and Company, LLC

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her work with McWhorter Technologies, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins describes her work with CDW Computer Centers, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Michelle L. Collins remembers founding Svoboda Collins, L.P.

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Michelle L. Collins describes her work with Coldwater Creek, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Michelle L. Collins talks about her corporate board memberships

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Michelle L. Collins describes her investment philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Michelle L. Collins remembers founding MC Advisory LLC

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Michelle L. Collins describes her work with minority business clients

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins talks about successful minority businesses

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins shares her advice for business students

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon her career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins describes her role at the Chicago Sinfonietta

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins describes her civic engagement in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins describes her involvement in professional organizations in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon the influence of her parents

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Michelle L. Collins describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

10$7

DATitle
Michelle L. Collins describes her position at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City
Michelle L. Collins describes her role at William Blair and Company, LLC, pt. 2
Transcript
Okay, so you graduated from Yale [Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut] in '82 [1982] (unclear)?$$In '82 [1982], um-hm.$$Eighty-two [1982], all right, okay, so, so, what did you do in '82 [1982]? What did you--did you go right to work (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) In 1982, in 1982, I--when I left Yale, I went to work at Chase Manhattan Bank [JPMorgan Chase and Co.], in a--initially in a credit training program they had and that was about a six month training program, and then I went into--you have a sort of avenues you can go to in the bank and I chose credit audit, and the significance of that was--were two things, one is that, it was a traveling job, you had to kind of go on assignment to different locations around the world, and also around the world, also, we were sort of selected based on how we did in the training program, to participate in this credit audit thing, and it was somewhat unusual at the time that Chase had a couple of credit issues, right before that, that caused them to take that action, so consequently, the people that I traveled with during that period, and, you know, that were in credit audit, also became fairly close people, because, you know, you're traveling in teams of twelve, or something for basically a year and a half, to two years. So, that was a--I really enjoyed that, you know, exposure, you know, first working at Chase, and making money, center bank, and I'm very loyal. I'm still a Chase customer. You know, the other thing was I got to that program, because I worked there in a minority program to some of the four, the guy named Davy Huddleston [ph.], who was in HR [human resources], kind of put this program together, and attracted a whole bunch of students, from not only Yale, and places like that, but a lot of the, you know, African American oriented universities [HBCUs]. And so you had this wonderfully good, you know, exposure, and it, those, pra- it made me realize, and even since then, just in my career just how important those kinds of programs actually are, to acclimating, 'cause here, I considered myself a person who didn't have, you know, a lot of hardships growing up, and had a lot of exposure, but I had no idea at all, what a commercial banker did, or what an investment banker did, or any of those kind of things that people sort of seem to take for granted, when I was coming up, as an option. And I never would have known about it, you know, had I not had that, that chance. And so you know, I pound that table whenever I can, you know, to create those programs and get that exposure for people so they can make educated decisions about their futures.$I just want to make sure we break this down to any students watching this--$$Okay, um-hm (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) so they'll have a real sense of what you do--$$Sure.$$--and, you know, how you do it.$$Well, I think a couple of things about the first years versus the later years, and it's very interesting that few of the skills that make you successful as a young person, are the skills that you need as a older person, so you establish yourself, in the before period on your analytics, on your ability, to work really hard, long, hours, to be accurate, do a lot of you know, sophisticated financial analyses, and things like that, present them verbally, you know, come up with the right conclusions, so it's kind of an apprenticeship, if you will, the way that business works and how you learn it. Later, knowing that you've had a grounding in this, you actually never have to touch a computer again, because you've got all the younger people working for you now, to do all that stuff, but you need to understand it, or you know otherwise, you're going to make a mistake, but the skills that make you successful as a partner are being able to present and find new clients and be able to mobilize the firm that you work for behind your particular project. So consequently, you're not hi- the main thing is that you're not hiding behind anyone now. You are on your own and so, if you have product that you are bringing to a salesforce, so you take a company public, you're offering shares to the public market, so you need a salesforce to do that, so you have to present something to your firm and you have to hope that your track record and the analyses that you've done on that deal, help your salesforce buy into wanting to sell it to their clients. So you kind of have an internal first cut, and that just comes with years of credibility of, you know, doing it day in and day out and not doing a lot of bad deals in the way things worked at William Blair [William Blair and Company, LLC, Chicago, Illinois], and subsequently, you had to find your own clients, whether you're pitching them, or you get a referral from somebody else. It's you know, knowing when to kind of--, "Okay, this is the perfect client to do my service for. You know, let's go after that one, and this one I'm not going to ever be able to do a great job on, so let's let them go to another firm," or something. So different sets of scales. I think that if you're a young person listening to me, you know, you gotta do one set of things really, really well early on. You hope you don't lose that, but you gotta be mindful that you gotta develop all of your presentation skills, with all of your ability to actually get business, and own that business, and fight for your numbers and do all those things, later on, and so then, the networks matter, all of your reputation matters, because basically when somebody hires you, they're like, well, "Who did you work for before?" And they call up that person and they say, well you know, "I got this Michelle Collins [HistoryMaker Michelle L. Collins] sitting here, and I heard she did a good job for you, and what did you like, what didn't you like," you know, so everything is based on your kind of word in the past, and you know, your reputation ultimately becomes paramount.

Sharon Gist Gilliam

Sharon Gist Gilliam was born on August 24, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois. The youngest of three siblings, Gilliam, was raised in the Chicago neighborhoods of West Chesterfield and Lawndale. Gilliam’s parents, Mr. Arthur C. Gist and Vivian M. Gist, were small business owners. She attended Burnside Elementary School, and graduated from St. Mary High School in 1961. In 1965, she received her B.A. degree in history at Mundelein College. Gilliam also completed coursework in the graduate department of Public Management at DePaul University. Gilliam then became a history teacher from 1965 to 1968 in the Chicago Public School System.

Gilliam worked with the City of Chicago’s Committee on Urban Opportunity in 1968 as a social planner for the poverty program. Between the years of 1973 and 1979, Gilliam became Assistant Budget Director Commissioner of Consumer Services for the City of Chicago. She then moved to Washington, D.C. and became assistant budget director for the local city government. In 1983, Gilliam relocated back to Chicago and worked as the Budget Director/Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the City of Chicago under then Mayor Harold Washington. As COO, Gilliam was responsible for policy implementation and an operating budget of $4 billion. In 1989, Gilliam received the Marks of Excellence Award from the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.

In 1989, Gilliam also became the executive vice president of the management consulting firm of Unison-Maximus. In 1999, Mayor Richard Daley appointed Gilliam to serve as the commissioner and chairperson of the Chicago Housing Authority until July 2009.

Today, Gilliam is principal at UCG Associates, a management consulting firm. She is Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Housing Authority and serves as a board member for several organizations including Mundelein College; Illinois State Board of Education; Chicago Board of Education; and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Gilliam passed away on February 16, 2020.

Sharon Gist Gilliam was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 8, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.034

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

3/8/2006

Last Name

Gilliam

Maker Category
Middle Name

Gist

Schools

St. Mary High School

Burnside Elementary Scholastic Academy

William Cullen Bryant School

Mundelein College

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Sharon

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

GIL04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Quote

And This Too Shall Pass.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/24/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Ice Cream, Potatoes (Mashed)

Death Date

2/16/2020

Short Description

Management executive and city government appointee Sharon Gist Gilliam (1943 - 2020) is the former budget director for the City of Chicago and Chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Employment

Farragut High School

Chicago Committee on Urban Opportunities

Model Cities Chicago

City of Chicago

City of Washington, D.C.

Unison-Maximus

Favorite Color

Pink, Rose

Timing Pairs
0,0:9152,124:9568,129:15394,154:15868,162:16895,174:17290,180:18238,198:21330,246:21798,255:22812,272:24216,309:24528,314:24918,320:31080,464:32952,527:35760,571:37086,585:37398,590:38022,600:44482,622:46406,657:46850,664:47590,676:48182,693:48478,698:54488,738:69308,972:69740,980:73248,1005:73815,1016:74130,1022:76083,1070:80765,1148:84248,1208:85058,1221:87245,1264:88541,1288:88865,1293:89675,1304:96915,1370:100592,1435:102840,1459:103330,1467:103890,1478:104380,1486:106252,1509:106888,1517:108372,1533:115377,1696:133352,1826:135138,1845:135796,1854:136548,1863:138280,1870$0,0:780,5:7699,67:11615,130:12327,139:13039,144:13484,150:16421,192:20938,224:21532,231:22225,240:23611,261:30305,358:30825,368:31670,383:32320,395:42618,501:49242,586:49606,591:50061,597:56345,718:57105,727:57580,733:57960,738:59385,759:60240,776:64879,812:65211,817:68780,879:69278,886:69610,891:71270,916:72266,929:73096,941:83336,1066:84016,1078:84424,1085:86532,1143:87076,1153:87348,1158:88028,1171:89864,1209:95340,1275:98560,1340:100170,1366:100590,1373:101080,1381:105280,1461:106050,1474:107030,1490:114142,1537:114688,1546:117730,1567:118258,1574:119182,1589:119578,1596:123627,1634:128199,1676:129225,1696:129681,1706:129909,1711:130422,1723:130707,1729:131106,1738:131391,1744:132360,1765:132759,1773:133215,1783:133443,1788:139280,1824:139655,1830:147888,1932:152120,1956:152416,1961:155006,2033:155598,2042:156930,2063:159510,2072:160026,2077:160542,2082:164753,2142:165148,2149:165622,2156:166254,2165:167992,2195:168466,2207:169019,2215:174672,2293:175342,2305:176749,2326:177620,2341:182158,2381:185692,2431:192667,2530:193132,2536:194062,2549:198480,2557:198812,2562:200555,2585:200887,2590:205535,2664:206199,2673:211214,2705:214716,2743:216158,2758:220865,2796:224581,2832:225117,2841:226390,2874:231620,2968
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam narrates her photographs

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Sharon Gist Gilliam's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her maternal grandmother's family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her maternal grandfather's family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her father's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her father and uncle's tax strategy

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her parents' college experience

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her parents and her likeness to her father

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers West Chesterfield in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her parents' move to West Chesterfield in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the history of her neighborhood in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers moving into her father's store

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her father's decision to purchase a tavern

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls working in her father's store

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her childhood experiences with white people

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls schools she attended

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls transferring to St. Mary High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes St. Mary High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her decision to attend Chicago's Mundelein College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes Mundelein College in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers taking on a second job during college

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls becoming a certified teacher

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the demographics of Farragut High School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers becoming an urban life advisor

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her work for the Committee on Urban Opportunity

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the Chicago Committee on Urban Opportunity

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers the 1968 Chicago riots

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls teaching night school

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the Model Cities program

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam explains how Erwin France used the Hatch Act to avoid Chicago politics

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls joining the Chicago city budget office

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remember Mayor Richard J. Daley's death

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls becoming acting commissioner of consumer sales, weights and measures, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls becoming acting commissioner of consumer sales, weights, and measures, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam explains what she learned as assistant budget director

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her role as assistant budget director

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers working for Marian Barry in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her complaints about working in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls what she learned in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Sharon Gist Gilliam compares the governments of Washington, D.C. and Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her return to the Chicago city government

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls the Chicago council wars

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her coworkers in Chicago's mayoral office

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls overhauling the Chicago budget with David F. Schultz

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers becoming Chicago's budget director

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers working for Mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers pushing for a mandatory retirement age

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls why she enjoyed serving as budget director

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers the challenges she faced as budget director

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers the death of Mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her job as Chicago's chief operating officer

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls the fallout from Steve Cokely's anti-Semitic remarks

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the changes she made to Chicago's budget

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers Mayor Eugene Sawyer

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls leaving the public sector

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her consulting firm, Unison-Maximus, Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls milestones at Unison-Maximus, Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the strengths of Unison-Maximus, Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam lists her appointments to civic boards

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls serving on the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls serving on the Illinois State Board of Education

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the Chicago Housing Authority's history, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the Chicago Housing Authority's history, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam talks about the Chicago Housing Authority's agreement to improve public housing

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her goals for the Chicago Housing Authority

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the state of Chicago's public housing

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam lists her activities in the public and private sectors

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam lists the board memberships she enjoys most

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam reflects upon her personality

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam reflects upon her family's expectations

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls working in her father's store
Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her work for the Committee on Urban Opportunity
Transcript
You know and I grew up working in a grocery store you know, as a little kid you stocked the lower shelves. Back in the day when there, when soda pop was sold in bottles all those bottles had to be sorted when they came, when people brought them back for their deposits. Well as a little kid that was one of your first jobs, was sorting pop bottles into the correct shelves. You know the Coke [Coca-Cola] bottles gotta go on the Coke shelves so they can go back with the Coke man and the Pepsi [Pepsi-Cola; Pepsi] and all of that so you know as kids that's what we did until you got tall enough to reach the counter and then you could add stuff up on the adding machine and learn to use the cash register and you know, so there was any number of little activities to keep us, and we didn't know, me and my sisters [Myra Gist and Vivian Gist Spencer], we didn't know from hanging out. You know there was work to be done (laughter) in the businesses and all of us at one time or another worked in one or another of those businesses. Now once they went into the tavern business you couldn't work there 'cause you were too young you know under the liquor licensing laws so but most of the time growing up he always had a grocery and package liquor where you could work and--I mean it was good experience because I mean because you were family. Yeah you may have been a teenager but if he or my mother [Vivian Montgomery Gist] weren't there you may have been fifteen years old, sixteen years old, you were in charge, responsible and accountable for that store. You supervised whatever employee who was there, you may have been fifteen and they were forty-five but I mean it was up to you to see that they were there, they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. You were the one who took in any deliveries, reviewed those invoices and paid the delivery person.$Good Lord but what we did as an urban life advisor, what I did was interviewed folks who were having trouble--whatever their life troubles were which typically at the time--there were--at one point I thought that surely the entire State of Mississippi had been depopulated, because all of those people were on the West Side [Chicago, Illinois], half of them living in their cars and looking for work (laughter), but you could come to an urban progress center and you could apply--they were co-located there, CCDPA, the old Cook County Department of Public Aid, which--whose job has now been taken over by the Illinois Department of Public Aid [Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services]. You had--the job training folks were there, they were all here in this one building. So you could come in and make application for all of these services, you know it's--current people talk about oh, let's do these multiservice centers and there are no new ideas, you know. Been there, done that so people came in and they saw us urban life advisors when they had various and sundry problems. They couldn't get their kids in a school, they needed to know where to get this, that or other kind of help, you know we had our handy Blue Book [Social Service Directory] there, which was put out by the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago which listed every single social service known to man, because remember there is no Internet yet (laughter), so you, you actually had directories and things, and you dealt with CCDPA, the--because that was back in the day when people actually had a social worker, a case worker who figured out their grant amount based on you know what their rent was, the number of kids they had, a whole bunch of other things. So you were forever having to deal with CCDPA to advocate on behalf of these people and try and straighten out stuff that case workers had either had not done or screwed up, help people get food stamps, deal with the CHA [Chicago Housing Authority] you know I mean there-- it was actually possible then to get housing, deal with that and what we were is--even though we didn't necessarily have a social services background, what you had were people with college degrees, who could go through all these directories and figure out how to get through the bureaucracy. I mean that's what we could do and that's what we did and you know. I happened to share an office with a girl, Karen Ivy [ph.] who had worked for CCDPA and she, she taught me you know (laughter) really how you dealt with and got through that bureaucracy to try and help people get you know what at the time you believed they were entitled to. Remember this is the '60s [1960s], we're children of the '60s [1960s] with the mentality that folks here, the government, folks are entitled to all of this service and somebody ought to beat on the head of the government and make them provide it, you know (laughter), give these people their food stamps.

Barbara Samuels

Founder and president of THE LION'S SHARE, INC. Barbara Samuels was born August 15, 1937, in Gary, Indiana. The daughter of Blanche and Dr. John Wilson, Samuels grew up in Chicago where she attended Burke Elementary School and graduated in 1955 from Lucy Flower Vocational High School. She then attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago State University.

Her career began at Sears Roebuck and Company in 1963 as a copywriter for the Sears & Roebuck Catalog. She was the first African American to hold that position. Samuels worked as part of a design team at Sears & Roebuck that made household accessories including lighting fixtures, dinnerware and tabletop items. Samuels was then promoted to buyer of handbags and later to national buyer of casual footwear. In 1998, she was named global "Buyer of the Year," winning out over 300 other contestants. She was also one of the first African Americans to visit many of the manufacturing facilities abroad.

After an early retirement, Samuels launched THE LION'S SHARE in 1994. The firm offers practical, profit oriented advice for fledgling designers, merchants and small companies in the fashion industry. Samuels organizes fashion shows for major organizations and charities such as the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Chicago Urban League, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. As a media personality, she has participated in fashion segments on Channel 32 Fox TV, WVON Radio, and the Bertrice Berry Show. Samuels was wardrobe and set design consultant for public television's America's Family Kitchen with VertaMae Grosvenor. She has also written a fashion column for N’DIGO. Samuels serves as board member or officer of several fashion-related entities, including Fashion Group International, the Apparel Industry Board, Inc. of Illinois, GenArt, The Color of Fashion, the Leaguers of the Chicago Urban League and the Costume Committee of the Chicago Historical Society.

Samuels has two sons, Michael and Gregory. She resides on Chicago's North Side.

Accession Number

A2003.301

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/17/2003

Last Name

Samuels

Maker Category
Schools

Lucy L. Flower Technical High School

Edmund Burke Elementary School

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago State University

First Name

Barbara

Birth City, State, Country

Gary

HM ID

SAM02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Isn't That Amazing?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/15/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Japanese Food

Short Description

Business consultant and retail buyer Barbara Samuels (1937 - ) has served as a national buyer for Sears, and founded THE LION'S SHARE, to offer profit-oriented advice for the fashion industry.

Employment

Sears Roebuck & Company

Lion's Share

N'DIGO

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barbara Samuels's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barbara Samuels lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barbara Samuels describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barbara Samuels describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barbara Samuels describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barbara Samuels describes her mother's life raising three children in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barbara Samuels remembers a traumatic childhood injury in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barbara Samuels describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barbara Samuels describes her grade school years at Burke Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Barbara Samuels describes her experience at Lucy Flower High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Barbara Samuels remembers visiting the Regal Theater and the Chicago Theater in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barbara Samuels remembers meeting famous actors during her teenage years

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barbara Samuels remembers experiences with the faculty and racial discrimination at Lucy Flower High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barbara Samuels shares memories from her time at Lucy Flower High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barbara Samuels describes her years at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barbara Samuels describes her job at the Chicago Urban League, including work with HistoryMaker Harry Belafonte

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barbara Samuels describes her first years as a copywriter in the clothing business

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barbara Samuels recalls experiencing harassment as the first black female copywriter at Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barbara Samuels recalls changes in culture and fashions during the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barbara Samuels describes her promotion from copywriter to retail buyer at Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barbara Samuels remembers the aftermath of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barbara Samuels describes her attempts to change the corporate culture at Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barbara Samuels recalls winning the Buyer of the Year award while at Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barbara Samuels explains her reasons for leaving her job at Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 1993

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barbara Samuels describes her involvement in the fashion industry and founding her own company during the 1990s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barbara Samuels talks about her time as a fashion writer for N'DIGO

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barbara Samuels describes some of her favorite advancements in fashion during her lifetime

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barbara Samuels reflects upon on trends and technological advancements in fashion

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Barbara Samuels comments on style trends among African American men

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Barbara Samuels describes changes in corporate fashion in the late 20th century

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Barbara Samuels describes the influence of hip hop on modern fashion trends

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Barbara Samuels talks about the disconnect between high fashion and average consumers

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Barbara Samuels talks about how an individual's clothing and style can reflect their personality

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Barbara Samuels describes global influences in the fashion world

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Barbara Samuels describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Barbara Samuels reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Barbara Samuels talks about how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Barbara Samuels narrates her photographs

DASession

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DATitle
Barbara Samuels remembers visiting the Regal Theater and the Chicago Theater in Chicago, Illinois
Barbara Samuels describes her attempts to change the corporate culture at Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Transcript
At what point in your life was your mother [Blanche Daniel] working for the Regal [Theater, Chicago, Illinois]?$$When we were in grammar school [Burke Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois].$$Okay and who were some of the personalities that you met, met there (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) I met James Brown, Al Green, Leslie Uggams, anyone who appeared there actually. There were some, you know, kind of weird folks my mother didn't want us around--$$Okay.$$--you know, for obvious reasons, and so we had to stay back in the office. But one of the, one of the--my mother was a real good friend of Nat [King] Cole's, you know, so that was great. But we used to wait--in high school we used to wait outside the Chicago Theater when they had live, live shows, and that was a highlight, and get autographs. That's what we did. I must have gone through four or five autograph books and of course, some of the stars that we thought were absolutely incredible turned out to be the nastiest and the ones that we didn't really care that much about turned out to be really nice, nice people. One of the highlights from waiting around for autographs was when Zachary Scott and Joan, Joan Bennett's sister, I can't--Constance Bennett, they were in town with a play called 'Bell, Book and Candle' and all five of us-there were five girls who hung together and we went over to the theater to wait for autographs and this very tall, black guy came out with these dogs, walking these dogs and he saw us and he said, "Well hi, who are you girls," and we said, "We're waiting to see Mr. Scott or Ms. Bennett to get autographs," and he said, "Well I'm Mr. Scott's personal assistant." And he said, "Have you seen the play," and we said no. In fact, we had never seen a play. We had seen stage productions but we had never seen a play per se. And so he said, "Well how would you like to come and see the play?" And we said, "What," and we were only fifteen years old at the time and he said, "Why don't you come and see it." He said, "I'll make sure you can see it." And I said, "Well we have to discuss this with our parents first, okay," and he said, "Fine," so he gave us cards and we all went home, talked to our parents. They said, "Well, okay as long as everyone's going," and they were going to pick us up. And we were--oh, did we ever have a big conference about what we were going to wear, oh it was incredible. We decided at the time pique, cotton pique jackets, flyaway jackets those were the big things so we each went out and our parents bought each one of us a different color jacket and we all wore these pique jackets over our dresses and skirts, and when we got to the theater, they took us--we went inside and most of the people were seated already and these five little black girls, teenagers came walking down the aisle. We had our heads up, we were so proud and everyone was whispering, "Who are they? What's this?" And they sat us right down in front, and then William Windom the actor was right--he was there too and he took us to see Johnny Hartman.$By '68 [1968] were there many black employees in the--at the corporate level (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) But again--but everyone was at an assistant level. There were very few blacks at full title, very few blacks at full title. And those of us who were, were constantly being questioned about our abilities and double checked, checked and double checked and just all kinds of stuff. I worked for a buyer who was extremely difficult and really anal. He was somewhat embarrassed because I was his assistant, and one of the secretaries who had a high school education went over to personnel and she said, "I want to be a copywriter," and they said, "Well you can't write or anything, you haven't been to college," and she said, "Well if she can do it, I know I can." And this woman could barely type a letter properly, you know? Lots of, lots of jealousy and you build up defenses and so--a thick skin, that's probably better, a thick skin for all of that. So it was, it was quite rough. It was quite rough.$$Did you get a chance to write about fashion at some point?$$Oh yeah, because I was in a fashion department with footwear, okay (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) (Unclear).$$So what happened was the buyers, when I was a copywriter, they were coming to me because of the way I dressed and I don't know where--I just started picking up this fashion know how by reading. I started subscribing to all the magazines and reading and everything. So they would come to me about colors, silhouettes, everything, who is this going to appeal to, what do you think, and their sales were going up just by listening to me. So the national merchandise manager, a very powerful position, he said, "I want you to come to my department as an associate buyer and forget this copywriting thing." And I said okay, and he said, "Because you're a rebel and that's what I want" because I used to wait for buses for ever just to get over to the West Side [Chicago, Illinois] and then the "L" [elevated train] and then walk. When we had moved downtown and it was still cold, it was even worse because you had the wind from the lake blowing. So I decided I am not going to continue wearing skirts and freezing my tail off in the winter. So I wore pants to work one day and it went all over, all over the place and they called over to the We- the office manager called over to the West Side and said, "This woman is wearing trousers to work, she's wearing pants and that's not the law. I'm going to make her go home," but I didn't work for her so she couldn't do it. I worked for the advertising department so the merchandise manager came into my office and I was sitting there and one of the other girls who was a copywriter, very political, she was white and wasn't going to make any waves because she wanted to be promoted to something else. Well she wore pants too, we were going to do this and she chickened out and put a skirt on over them so that she could remove them in case there was too much heat. So Bill Grant walked into the office and he said, "Stand up," and I stood up. He says, "Turn around." Well see now today, he'd be in all kinds of trouble. But he said, "Stand up, turn around. Okay you look great. Sit down. You don't have to go home." And after that women started wearing pants to work in droves and so they changed the dress code because I had guts enough to do that.$$Now was Sears [Sears, Roebuck and Co.] ahead of or behind the rest of the corporate world in terms of women wearing pants to work? 'Cause it wasn't that long ago, I guess, well long ago now but there was a time when women couldn't wear pants publicly (unclear) (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) I think Sears was ahead of the time, because in most of the big corporations even when that happened women were not wearing pants to work and that was in--it had to be around '68 [1968], '69 [1969], something like that. So I was getting phone calls from everybody, "Aw, thank you so much. God it's great that we can wear pants to work," you know, and then guys would call me up and say, "Hey, do you know what you've started? What would happen if we started wearing skirts to work?" You know silly stuff like that. So that was--that was, that was good. That was good.$$This is about nineteen sixty (unclear) (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah about '68 [1968]--$$Sixty-eight [1968], okay.$$--sixty-nine [1969], yeah somewhere around there.$$All right.$$And you know I mean really it was Sears was not a law office. I could understand the legal department if that was what they wanted to do but with all the running around and everything we had to do, it was stupid for us to not be able to wear them. My mother [Blanche Daniel] was very proud of me; she thought that was just great that I had done that because that's the same kind of thing she would have done.