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Dolores D. Wharton

Civic leader Dolores D. Wharton was born on July 3, 1927 in New York City to V. Kenneth Duncan and Josephine Bradford. Wharton attended New York University, Danbury State Teacher’s College, and the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, where she studied modern dance with Martha Graham. She received her B.F.A. degree from Chicago State Teacher’s College in the 1960s.

Wharton and her husband, Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., lived in Southeast Asia from 1958 to 1964. Following her return to the United States, Wharton wrote Contemporary Artists of Malaysia: A Biographic Survey, the first academic survey ever written on Malaysian art. Wharton became the first lady of Michigan State University in 1969, when her husband was appointed president of the university. As first lady, Wharton strengthened the university’s relationship with the greater Lansing, Michigan area, and with the student body. President Gerald Ford appointed Wharton to the National Council on the Arts of the National Endowment for the Arts in 1971. She became the first woman, and the first African American, elected to the board of the Michigan Bell Telephone Company in 1974, as well as the boards of the Kellogg Company and the Phillips Petroleum Company in 1976. Wharton initiated and chaired both company’s first social responsibility committees. She was also the first woman, and the first African American, elected to the board of the Gannett Company in 1979. Wharton went on to establish the Fund for Corporate Interns, Inc. (later the Fund for Corporate Initiatives) in 1980. In 1984, Wharton expanded FCI to include the young executives program, a week-long seminar that provided corporate leadership development to minority and women corporate employees.

Throughout her career, Wharton served on numerous other boards including the New York Telephone Company, Tulane University’s board of visitors, The Key Bank National Association, Golub, Inc., the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NPR, and COMSAT. Wharton was also served on the board of the Michigan Council on the Arts, the Aspen Institute, the Asia Society, CSIS, the SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology, the New York City Center, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Glimmerglass Opera, among others. Wharton has been awarded nine honorary degrees.

Wharton and her husband, Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., have two sons, Clifton Wharton III and Bruce Wharton.

Dolores Wharton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 14, 2016 and October 4, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.001

Sex

Female

Interview Date

07/14/2016

10/4/2016

Last Name

Wharton

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

D.

Schools

Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School

New York University

Western Connecticut State University

Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater

University of Chicago

Main Street School

Danbury High School

Bethel High School

First Name

Dolores

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

WHA03

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

Wonderful.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/3/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Asian Food

Short Description

Civic leader Dolores D. Wharton (1927 - ) was the first woman, and the first African American, elected to the boards of Michigan Bell Telephone Company, Kellogg Company, Phillips Petroleum Company, and Gannett Company.

Employment

The Fund for Corporate Initiatives

Favorite Color

Multicolor

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631733">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dolores D. Wharton's interview, session 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631734">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631735">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631736">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631737">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls the social scene in Philadelphia and New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631738">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631739">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631740">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers her family home in New York City, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631741">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers her family home in New York City, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631742">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton describes the Little Red School House in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631743">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her childhood activities in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631744">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about race relations in New York City during the 1930s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631745">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her parents' divorce</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631746">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about her stepfather, James W. Owens</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631747">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her high school experiences in Danbury, Connecticut, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631748">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her high school experiences in Danbury, Connecticut, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631749">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her mother's second marriage to James W. Owens</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631750">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about racial boundaries in Danbury, Connecticut</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631751">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her mother's departure from the Episcopal church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631752">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers meeting her husband, Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631753">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls living in New York City and Connecticut during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631754">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers the military service of her friends and family during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631755">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her dance training in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631756">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers reconnecting with Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. after World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631757">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls being neighbors with Marian Anderson in Danbury, Connecticut</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631758">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her wedding, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631759">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her wedding, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631760">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls living with her husband in Harlem, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631761">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls attending the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631762">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her lifestyle in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631763">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls moving back to New York City in the late 1950s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631764">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers living in Singapore with her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631765">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls the art scene in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631766">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her dance program in Malaysia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631767">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about her children's education in Malaysia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631768">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her husband's appointment as president of Michigan State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631769">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about her role as first lady of Michigan State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631770">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about her support of her husband's career at Michigan State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631771">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers student protests at Michigan State University in the 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631772">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls joining the Michigan Council for the Arts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631773">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls visiting Michigan universities with her husband</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631774">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about joining corporate boards in Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631775">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton describes the fundraising campaigns at Michigan State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631776">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her husband's presidency of the State University of New York System</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631777">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about corporate social responsibility committees</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631778">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton describes the Fund for Corporate Initiatives' programs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631779">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Dolores D. Wharton's interview, session 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631780">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls joining the board of Michigan Bell Telephone Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631781">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about her corporate boards responsibilities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631782">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls joining the board of the New York Telephone Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631783">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers joining the board of the Phillips Petroleum Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631784">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her experiences on the board of Phillips Petroleum Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631785">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her travels to Norway</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631786">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers corporate board members</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631787">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls founding corporate social responsibility committees</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631788">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about her experiences on the board of the Kellogg Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631789">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton describes responsibilities at Michigan State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631790">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls joining the board of the Gannett Company, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631791">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her not-for-profit board memberships in Albany, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631792">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls mentoring college undergraduates in Albany, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631793">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Dolores D. Wharton describes the Fund for Corporate Initiatives</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631794">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her collaboration with the Aspen Institute</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631795">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about the Fund for Corporate Initiatives participants</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631796">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her internship programs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631797">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about the age limit rules on corporate boards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631798">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls traveling to South Africa with the Kellogg Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631799">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her visit to Soweto, South Africa</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631800">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls the Kellogg Company's presence in South Africa</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631801">Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls her husband's appointment as deputy secretary of state</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631802">Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton remembers Cyrus Vance and Grace Sloane Vance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631803">Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about her board activities during the 1990s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631804">Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls founding a charity in memory of her son, Clifton R. Wharton III</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631805">Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Dolores D. Wharton recalls retiring from various boards and non-profit programs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631806">Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Dolores D. Wharton talks about the process of writing her memoirs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631807">Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Dolores D. Wharton reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631808">Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631809">Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Dolores D. Wharton reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631810">Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Dolores D. Wharton describes her plans for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631811">Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Dolores D. Wharton narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/631812">Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Dolores D. Wharton narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

4$6

DATitle
Dolores D. Wharton remembers meeting her husband, Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.
Dolores D. Wharton describes the Fund for Corporate Initiatives' programs
Transcript
Now you're in high school. When did you meet Cliff [HistoryMaker Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.]? You were in high school, correct?$$Yes. There was no social--there was no real social interaction with young men in, in Danbury [Connecticut]. There was one--no, I won't go there--and he would (unclear).$$Well, I read that you were--you had a date with someone else, and then when you met--you went on a date with a cadet or (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, that was--yeah, well, that was much--that was later.$$It was later, okay.$$That was later.$$All right.$$Mother [Josephine Bradford Owens] wanted me to interact more with--well, I think she did. I think she wanted me to go up to meet--she was interacting with her cousin, the Fitzgeralds, who were in Boston [Massachusetts]; they had been--they were related to the Bradfords, the mother. Bertha Fitzgerald was related to--she was related to the Bradfords, and mother went once to visit them, and she had me going up to Boston. I went to Boston once to visit my cousin, and she had a party, a birthday party, and Cliff was supposedly at that party and I was supposed to have met him then. I don't remember it--having met him; I had a lot of young men paying attention to me (laughter). The year later, Betty [Betty Fitzgerald] invited me up for a--she was at Radcliffe [Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts], and she invited me up to a dance at Radcliffe, and she got Cliff as my date, and we met at Harvard Yard [Cambridge, Massachusetts].$$How old were you?$$I think I was what--eighteen? We went to--we met in Harvard Yard, he took us to Adams House--for dinner at Adams House, and then we went back to Betty's dorm and got dressed for the dance; it was black tie, but--well, it might have been semiformal. The girls were in long dresses. And we went to the dance, we had a lovely time--just grand, just really delightful. I've described this as, I felt like I was--what was it--Sarah [sic. Scarlett O'Hara] in 'Gone with the Wind,' dancing with Clark Gable. Ooh! He was gorgeous (laughter), he really was so handsome. He's tall and thin, and he was Mr. Harvard, and oh, it was lovely. Then the dance was almost over and Cliff asked Betty and me if we would like to come to his church the next morning, where he was serving as an acolyte, and we accepted. We--you know, an extension of the weekend. So, the next morning we got on the "T," and went to the black part of Boston--Roxbury [Boston, Massachusetts]--and we went to the church. We were sitting in the pews quietly, and we thought we were being very quiet, and up comes a little white priest with all of his British accent and pulled back and said, "How dare you speak at the House of God!" Well, we just disintegrated, the two of us sitting in those pews. So, off he goes, and he goes back to where the acolytes are, and he tells this story back there, with the acolytes, of these two girls who happen to be there inside the vestry, talking. Can you imagine that? Well, Cliff knew full well who it was (laughter), of course. And the ceremony began, and he was going through with all of his incense and waving all this smoke all over the place. That passed, and then we went outside, and there were lots of people outside doing their--you know, the little old ladies with their bonnets; they were all black. It was a totally black church, and Cliff got his mother [Harriette Banks Wharton] and introduced me to his mother. His mother was very stern. She was a schoolteacher. She was very much a schoolteacher, and she was very busy greeting people--her friends, the other members of the congregation. And she greeted me and then she left, she went off someplace, and I was talking to Cliff. And then she came back suddenly and said, "Cliff, Cliff, you have to excuse yourself from these young ladies, I want--," and then she said, "he has to go, he has to meet some friends of mine." So, off he went, and we said, "Goodbye," and Betty and I got back on the "T" and I came back to Danbury.$You wanna get into all this?$$Sure.$$I went to the corporations--the major corporations there in Albany [New York]. I just had my secretary call up and say, "Mrs. Wharton [HistoryMaker Dolores D. Wharton] would like to come and have an appointment with you," and I went to see all the CEOs and human resource people, and talked--sat down--well, I--first I, with Cliff's [HistoryMaker Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.] help, I made a questionnaire for these--to find out what was going on in the corporations in Albany, why the blacks, why the women were not moving up the corporate ladder. What's happening? And I went to the CEOs and I--a number of them--and found out a lot about what might be able to be done, and got some ideas, and I talked about it a lot here and there, and got a contact with a chap who was the head of the school of--dean of the school of business and--but basically, Cliff and I really talked about what could be done. And we organized a program [Fund for Corporate Interns, Inc.; Fund for Corporate Initiatives, Inc.] and I went to the dean of the school of business and asked him to come aboard and to do some teaching with the young people, but first I went to the corporations and asked them to give me summer internships in their companies for women and minorities to work in their companies for a real job--a job with a beginning, a middle and an ending--just not a gofer's job. I negotiated this and a decent salary for them, and knowing--and telling them that on the weekends those young people would be coming to me and I would be teaching--I would be training them. I got a let- ooh, I got a number of corporations to come aboard saying, "Okay Dolores Wharton, we'll give you jobs for these kids." I went to the deans of the schools of business and the universities all around--Union [Union College, Schenectady, New York] and RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York]--all around, and I got those deans to take my material to their bright students that don't--you can't deal with them if they're not bright. I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it. I'm small, I can't do it. So, for the young people to apply to me to come for the internships--these jobs that I had gotten for them--and I placed them, and gave them the jobs, and they went off on--in the summer, throughout the entire summer, to their jobs, but they came to me on weekends, and that's when I trained them where I had this dean of the school of business from State University of New York in Albany [State University of New York at Albany, Albany, New York]--and we trained them in person in various aspects of what you do in developing your relationships to your colleagues on the board in your company. And we also gave them writing, I--one of our--Cliff's colleagues there, we taught them writing for the business sector. They don't always write for business, they write for their compositions. But writing for the business sector, I gave them speech, I got a speech teacher from the youth theater; he taught them how to stand up and make presentations.$$Right.$$And I had lovely residents. I gave them--how to deal with people outside of their corporations when they would be invited to dinners, and that kind of thing. How do you introduce some people, one outstanding person to another? How do you behave yourself? Good program. And that's what we did on weekends. And I was told by the dean that when those--when my young people went out to get jobs at the university--when the recruiters came in to hire at the universities, my kids just turned out, they just got the jobs--they cleaned up because they knew how to behave themselves.$$How many students moved through that program?$$I don't really remember, but there were a--I know it's the other program, the young executive program, that I remember. We put a couple a hundred through that one, and I (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And does it exist anymore?$$No. Once I got to a certain age, I'd gone off my boards. I--you know, I--at seventy, I had to go off.$$Okay.$$And I didn't have the contacts anymore. Cliff didn't have the contacts. We used our contacts, that was our faculty--our contacts. They were brilliant (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) So it lived as long as you were on the board.$$Yes. And also, other institutions were beginning to develop programs like--they were copying me, they really were. They were doing what I was doing, quite a few others. So it got so--and I didn't have to do this, so I decided it was time to close the doors.