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Dorothy Terrell

Corporate executive Dorothy Ann Terrell was born June 12, 1945 in Hallandale, Florida. Her parents, Pearlie Weeks Terrell and Charles Walter Terrell, sent her to Lanier Elementary School, Lanier Junior High School, and Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. Aspiring to be a journalist, Terrell graduated from high school in 1963 and enrolled at Florida A&M University. Terrell graduated cum laude from Florida A&M University in 1966 with her B.A. degree in English.

After accepting a counseling position with Job Corps, Terrell moved to Poland Springs, Maine. In 1967, Terrell moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where she worked as a counselor for Reverend Leon Sullivan’s Opportunities Industrial Corporation (OIC), and eventually rose to the position of assistant director. In 1973, Terrell joined the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office for Children, where she became the associate director in 1975. Serving on the advisory board of OIC brought Terrell into contact with representatives of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), who offered her a job as a training manager in 1976. From 1978 to 1980, Terrell was plant human relations manager in Westminster, Massachusetts. She later became group human relations manager of systems manufacturing from 1980 to 1983 and, from 1983 to 1984, served as group manager for engineering and manufacturing. In 1984, Terrell was promoted to plant manager of the DEC plant in Roxbury, Massachusetts. She was the first African American woman to hold this position. Primarily manufacturing keyboards, Terrell reduced the new product cycle from ninety days to seventy-five days and reduced manufacturing costs by more than 30%. Terrell also served as DEC’s group manager of interconnect/packaging from 1987 to 1991. Terrell joined Sun Microsystems, Inc. in 1991 as president of Sun-Express, and as a corporate officer through 1997. At Sun Microsystems, she led the company in asset management performance and grew revenues to over $300 million per year. After 1997, Terrell was served simultaneously as senior vice president of worldwide sales for NMS Communications and president of Platform Services Group. Terrell temporarily left First Light Capital as a partner and became president and CEO of Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a national nonprofit organization that promotes economic prosperity in America’s inner cities through private sector engagement with local residents. Terrell later returned to work for First Light Capital.

Terrell has been the recipient of many awards, including being named one of the Top 50 line managers in America by Executive Female magazine, a Top Ten Business Marketer by Business Marketing magazine, and one of 20 Women of Power and Influence by Black Enterprise magazine. She also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Florida A&M University. Terrell was a subject in The Wizards and Their Wonders: Portraits in Computing, an exhibit and book by Christopher Morgan, as well as The Enterprising Woman by Mari Florence.

Terrell lives in Miami Beach, Florida.

Dorothy Terrell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 11, 2007 and March 9, 2017.

Accession Number

A2007.133

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/11/2007

3/9/2017

Last Name

Terrell

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Dillard High School

Lanier Elementary School

Lanier Junior High School

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

First Name

Dorothy

Birth City, State, Country

Fort Lauderdale

HM ID

TER03

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Genelle Trader

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

While We Can.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/12/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Miami

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Pasta

Short Description

Corporate executive Dorothy Terrell (1945 - ) was the former president of Sun Microsystem’s Sun-Express.

Employment

SunExpress

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City

Digital Equipment Corporation

Job Corps

Office for Children

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dorothy Terrell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell describes her mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell describes her father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell describes her siblings and adopted siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell describes her parents' marriage and economic status

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell describes her family's involvement in the A.M.E. Church

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell describes Lanier Elementary School in Hallandale, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell describes Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell describes her teachers and aspirations at Dillard High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell remembers her childhood pastimes

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell describes her older brother's life

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell describes her decision to attend Florida A&M University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell describes her experiences at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell describes her civil rights activity in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell recalls the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell recalls her teachers at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell talks about the Marching 100 and Bob Hayes

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell recalls her graduation from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell recalls working at a Job Corps center in Poland, Maine

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell describes her early career in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell remembers being hired at Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell describes her career at the Digital Equipment Corporation, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell describes her career at the Digital Equipment Corporation, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell recalls becoming a plant manager at the Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell recalls running Digital Equipment Corporation's Roxbury plant

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell describes her team based production strategy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell describes her family's move to Cupertino, California

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell reflects upon her career at Digital Equipment Corporation in Cupertino, California

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell recalls making major layoffs at Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell describes how she came to work for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell describes the mission of SunExpress

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Dorothy Terrell's interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell remembers her childhood games

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell describes her relationship with her father

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell remembers Greater Ward Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hallandale Beach, Florida

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell recalls her early religious inquires

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell describes her early household and extended family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her reasons for attending Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Dorothy Terrell remembers the social environment at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell describes her high school personality

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her decision to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell remembers her social life at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell recalls her decision to join the Job Corps in Poland Spring, Maine in 1963

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell describes her experiences at the Poland Spring Job Corps Center for Women in Poland Springs, Maine

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell remembers her move to Boston, Massachusetts in 1967

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell describes her work with the Opportunities Industrialization Centers

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her time with the Office for Children

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Dorothy Terrell remembers Paul Newman's invitation to join Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Dorothy Terrell describes the work environment at Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell describes affirmative action practices at the Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell remembers challenges and support groups in her start at the Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell compares work environments at the Digital Equipment Corporation and Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell remembers becoming plant manager at the Digital Equipment Corporation's Boston plant

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell talks about the impact of core groups at the Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell talks about racial diversity within the Digital Equipment Corporation

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell remembers improving production times at the Digital Equipment Corporation's Boston plant

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell recalls lessons and challenges from managing the Digital Equipment Corporation's Boston plant

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Dorothy Terrell remembers colleague Barbara Walker's advice at a difficult time

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Dorothy Terrell describes the support she received from colleagues Richard Farrahar and Kevin Melia

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell remembers implementing just-in-time manufacturing at the Digital Equipment Corporation's Boston plant

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell talks about competition in the computing industry in the 1980s

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell remembers her promotion to lead the Digital Equipment Corporation's plant in Cupertino, California

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her family's move to Saratoga, California

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell describes the development of the VAX 9000 supercomputer

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell remembers laying off workers at the Digital Equipment Corporation's plant in Cupertino, California

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell recalls Scott McNealy's offer to become president of SunExpress

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell describes Scott McNealy's initial plans for SunExpress

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell remembers her family's reluctance to leave California

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell recalls hiring Genelle Trader to join SunExpress

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell describes sales innovations at SunExpress

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell talks about building SunExpress

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell describes her approach to hiring SunExpress' personnel

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her hiring process

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell remembers key executives at SunExpress

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell describes infighting within Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell remembers other women and people of color from her time in the technology industry

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell talks about the importance of support to care for a family while sustaining a corporate career

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell reflects upon her success as a business leader

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell remembers her decision to leave SunExpress

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell recalls her first board memberships

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell names corporate boards and committees where she has served

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell remembers her colleagues from corporate boards

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell reflects upon the significance of diversity on corporate boards

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her experiences on corporate boards

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell talks about Corporate America's global position

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell remembers joining the NMS Communications Corporation in Framingham, Massachusetts

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell recalls her experiences at the NMS Communications Corporation

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell describes the NMS Communications Corporation's operations

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell talks about joining the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Dorothy Terrell remembers projects of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Dorothy Terrell recalls buying an apartment in Miami, Florida

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Dorothy Terrell reflects upon her attraction to Miami, Florida

Tape: 12 Story: 9 - Dorothy Terrell describes the Perez Art Museum Miami in Miami, Florida

Tape: 12 Story: 10 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her home in Newport, Rhode Island

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her political involvements

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Dorothy Terrell reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Dorothy Terrell talks about her philanthropic interests in Miami, Florida

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Dorothy Terrell describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Dorothy Terrell describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Dorothy Terrell recalls becoming a plant manager at the Digital Equipment Corporation
Dorothy Terrell describes her team based production strategy
Transcript
And then I got a call one day from Ralph [Ralph Gillespie] and he says, "I'm leaving this plant. I've been promoted to another job." He says, "Are you interested in running a plant," and I laughed. I said, "Ralph, you called me out of a meeting to ask me about running a plant. You know that doesn't happen here," because plant managers came from engineering or they came from these materials. You had to be technical in order to be a plant manager in Digital [Digital Equipment Corporation]. He says, "Why don't you just wait and see what the job description is and you decide from there," so I said fine. I went back to my meeting. But, it was at a time when I had moved from Boston [Massachusetts], I lived in Marlborough [Massachusetts] for a while, then in Chelmsford [Massachusetts], and I was getting to the point where I wanted to, if I didn't move back into Boston, I wanted to be closer to Boston. I felt like I had been blessed, I had learned a lot of things and I wanted to, wasn't so much go back home, I wanted to give back and be closer to be able to do that, and so I was in the process of trying to think about where could I work to make that happen and so Ralph's call caused me to do some thinking, although I thought it was the longest shot in the world, but when the job description came out, it played to my strengths as opposed to my weaknesses. I didn't have the technical piece but I knew Digital. That plant was a low-end manufacturing plant and that was the group that I supported, so I knew the people there. They knew me. I knew manufacturing, after all I had been in Westminster [Massachusetts] for quite some time. I grew up in manufacturing. So, I went after that job with a vengeance and I competed with a person who was an engineer, I interviewed with the group managers, I interviewed, you know, with the plant staff and I was selected to run the Boston plant in Roxbury [Boston, Massachusetts]. It was such an honor. And--$$Now what year is this?$$Eighty-four [1984].$$Okay.$$So, the Boston plant manufactured keyboards, but it was the highest volume manufacturing operation Digital had, and we had to go to three shifts because of the volume at that point. When Ralph was there, Ralph hired a really good staff and then, that's when he got a promotion, so I had great material to work with. These were really competent people and helped me to understand that I didn't have to know everything. What my job was, was to provide leadership and to bring people together to help to form a team to make that place really hum. It was at the time when just-in-time was coming in and I, when I, to tell you a story, when I went after that plant, I talked with the plant manager that I supported in Westminster and he told me, he says, "You know, you're probably gonna have to make some changes when you go to Boston." He said, "We know you in Westminster; we know you in Maynard [Massachusetts]. When you say something, that's what you mean. You might not smile a lot or you need to show emo-, you need to show more emotion." And I said, "What are talking about?" Because for me, being black, being a woman, emotion is the last thing I want. He says, "Because people are not going to understand what you're really trying to say."$How did the team, how did it help them to do it as a team, I mean, I know there's one, are they making like several keyboards at once, or are they, what do they (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, they could because what was going on is you do one thing--it wasn't like one person making an entire keyboard, one person who was doing one function and then pushing it to someone else to do something else. When you form a team, then the team would be responsible for that one person, then got to know how to put together an entire keyboard themselves, and then there would be decisions as to who would make decisions today, in a sense, around, if they had to do a hundred keyboards, then how would that get done? You know, would X number of people do it and Y number of people go get the material, or allotted, so it was the team's decision as to how the production happened, not waiting for something to come to them to do one little thing to pass it on, and they felt that was much more exciting, and I also found out that being me didn't mean that folks didn't understand me at all. It meant that, because I got a poem from one of the folks on the floor out of the group, and it pretty much said that and I think I still have it somewhere. I don't know. But it was like understanding that I care about people. I may not take care of people, but I do care about people and that came across in that I was interested in getting the best out of people. I want the best out of me, so why wouldn't folks want to have the best. You come to work, you've gotta be there, you might as well use all of you to make these kinds of things happen. So, it was an exciting time and then after Boston [Massachusetts], I got promoted to Maynard [Massachusetts] to work for Bill Hanson, who was in charge of manufacturing and I was responsible for helping with the strategy of manufacturing [for Digital Equipment Corporation]. That didn't last too long. Oh, the other thing that happened while I was in Boston is I got married for the second time just when I started working in Boston, and I got pregnant when I was in the, in the plant.