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H. Melvin Ming

Corporate media executive H. Melvin Ming was born Hilton Austin Melvin Ming in Hamilton, Bermuda. He is one of three sons of Hester and Calvin Ming. After completing his early education in Bermuda, Ming moved to the United States and graduated with his B.A. degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1967.

Upon graduation, Ming was hired as an Auditor and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for the accounting firm Coopers Lybrand (PricewaterhouseCoopers) in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. In 1973, at the age of twenty-nine, Ming became only the seventh African American to achieve professional standing as a CPA in Pennsylvania. After a successful twelve year tenure at Coopers Lybrand, Ming left to become the Assistant Director for East of the River Health Association, a primary care Community Health Center in Southeast Washington, D.C. Ming then served for two years as Vice President, Finance and Administration, for the National Urban Coalition, an urban policy analysis research non-profit corporation. He then led a successful financial turn-around of National Public Radio (NPR) in Washington, D.C. Ming went on to lead three more major financial restructurings at Channel Thirteen/WNET in New York, WQED in Pittsburgh and the Museum of Television and Radio in New York and Los Angeles. In 1999, Ming became the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Sesame Workshop in New York, the creators of the popular children’s television show Sesame Street. In 2002, Ming became Chief Operating Officer at Sesame Workshop. In 2006, Ming became the Director of Westwood, Inc., the largest independent producer and distributor of programming for commercial radio in the nation.

Ming serves on boards including the trustee of Regional Conferences Retirement Board, where he serves as one of three outside directors overseeing the $94 million retirement fund; First Children Finance, a non-profit organization created to meet the growing demand for quality early care and education, especially in low-income communities; and Atlantic Union College, a liberal arts college of 600 students located in South Lancaster, Massachusetts.

Ming was married in 1972 and has two children, Calvin Ming, thirty-five, and Jerilynne Ming, thirty-four. He also has two grandchildren, Carina and Cameron Ming.

Ming was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 6, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.013

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/6/2008

Last Name

Ming

Maker Category
Middle Name

Melvin

Occupation
Schools

Victor Scott Primary School

Berkeley Institute

Temple University High School

Temple University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

H.

Birth City, State, Country

Pembroke, Bermuda

HM ID

MIN04

Favorite Season

Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

What You Are Speaks So Loudly That I Can't Hear A Word You Say.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/22/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Bermuda

Favorite Food

Pie (Cassava)

Short Description

Media executive H. Melvin Ming (1944 - ) was the director of Westwood, Inc., the nation's largest independent producer and distributor of programming for commercial radio. He was also the president and CEO of the Sesame Workshop.

Employment

PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (formerly Coopers and Lybrand)

East of the River Health Clinic

National Urban Coalition

National Public Radio

WNET-TV

WQED

Museum of Television and Radio

Sesame Workshop

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - H. Melvin Ming shares the history of his surname

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - H. Melvin Ming describes the history of Bermuda

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of H. Melvin Ming's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - H. Melvin Ming lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - H. Melvin Ming describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - H. Melvin Ming talks about his maternal grandparents' occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - H. Melvin Ming recalls his early musical influences

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - H. Melvin Ming talks about his community in Bermuda

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - H. Melvin Ming describes his paternal relatives' occupations

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - H. Melvin Ming talks about his father and maternal grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - H. Melvin Ming describes his early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - H. Melvin Ming describes his earliest memories of education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - H. Melvin Ming describes his education on Bermudian history

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - H. Melvin Ming talks about race relations in Bermuda

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - H. Melvin Ming describes the smells and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - H. Melvin Ming describes the traditional architecture in Bermuda

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - H. Melvin Ming describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - H. Melvin Ming talks about his brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - H. Melvin Ming recalls his early exposure to business

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - H. Melvin Ming recalls his mother's work in Bermuda's realty industry

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - H. Melvin Ming remembers visiting the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - H. Melvin Ming talks about his early education in Bermuda

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - H. Melvin Ming remembers moving to the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - H. Melvin Ming recalls his decision to study accounting

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - H. Melvin Ming remembers his search for an accounting position

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - H. Melvin Ming recalls being drafted into the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - H. Melvin Ming describes lessons from his time in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - H. Melvin Ming recalls joining the National Association of Black Accountants

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - H. Melvin Ming describes his experiences as an accountant at Lybrand, Ross Brothers and Montgomery

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - H. Melvin Ming recalls his colleagues and clients at Lybrand, Ross Brothers and Montgomery

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - H. Melvin Ming describes his experiences of discrimination at the firm of Coopers and Lybrand

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - H. Melvin Ming talks about his response to discrimination in the workplace

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - H. Melvin Ming describes the qualities of a good accountant

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - H. Melvin Ming recalls opening an branch of Coopers and Lybrand in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - H. Melvin Ming remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - H. Melvin Ming describes his relationship with his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - H. Melvin Ming remembers his college classmate, Bill Cosby

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - H. Melvin Ming recalls his disinterest in fraternities

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - H. Melvin Ming remembers working at the National Urban Coalition

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - H. Melvin Ming recalls his tenure at the National Urban Coalition

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - H. Melvin Ming describes his challenges at National Public Radio

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - H. Melvin Ming describes his success at National Public Radio

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - H. Melvin Ming recalls working at WNET-TV in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - H. Melvin Ming remembers working at WQED Multimedia in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - H. Melvin Ming remembers his transition to the Museum of Television and Radio

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - H. Melvin Ming recalls how he came to join the Sesame Workshop

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - H. Melvin Ming describes the initiatives at the Sesame Workshop

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - H. Melvin Ming talks about the educational value of 'Sesame Street'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - H. Melvin Ming talks about the influence of television on children

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - H. Melvin Ming talks about the production of South Africa's 'Takalani Sesame'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - H. Melvin Ming describes the 'Sesame Street' programs in Islamic countries

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - H. Melvin Ming talks about the challenges facing the Sesame Workshop

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - H. Melvin Ming describes the plans for the future of the Sesame Workshop

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - H. Melvin Ming talks about his career plans

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - H. Melvin Ming reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - H. Melvin Ming reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - H. Melvin Ming talks about the importance of diversity on 'Sesame Street'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - H. Melvin Ming describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - H. Melvin Ming reflects upon his success

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - H. Melvin Ming describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
H. Melvin Ming remembers moving to the United States
H. Melvin Ming talks about the production of South Africa's 'Takalani Sesame'
Transcript
I guess the year before the final year [at Berkeley Institute, Pembroke Bermuda], my--that's the day that I came home one Thursday afternoon and the family's there and, there's a family counsel and my mother [Hester Bean Ming] said to me, "You're going to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. There you will finish high school and you'll go to college, and you're gonna go to Aunt Ida." Now there were no colleges in Bermuda when I at the time, and the ambition of a young boy like me was usually to get your moped, get your own bicycle. Now here maybe get your car, there was get your moped. And see and if you were sixteen you could get your license and you can get your own transportation, then man you're, you're, you're free as a bird. And that was sort of the, that was the horizon getting a, a bike, and$$So did they send you out be, before you got your moped?$$My mother wisely said that, "You need an education and here's, here's where you gonna go." And I was excited 'cause I'm going to Philadelphia, so I never owned my own moped, my own bike. I went to Philadelphia instead, I was sixteen years old, and I was met at the Phil- Philadelphia airport. Went to live with Aunt Ida, Ida Pitts [ph.] and Uncle Ed, Edwin, Edward Pitts [ph.], and these (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Now these your father's relatives?$$No these, these--Aunt Ida was a--excuse me, I'm gonna sneeze--a cousin of my [maternal] grandmother [Helen Bean], and when you're in, in the islands, it's who do you know in the states? And, who can watch over you 'cause you're only sixteen years old. So I came to the states and was, it was in January, January '62 [1962], and I had to do one year of high school. 'Cause to get into college here I didn't have any history, so I had to do courses like American history. And I went to Temple University High School [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] and completed my necessary requirements. And that was a, boy was that an experience, I'm sixteen years old, I'm in a class in Temple Prep they called it at the time, this is Temple High School. With, now I know what it was, then I didn't know, veterans, and these were veterans who were on the G.I. Bill [Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944], who had returned from then Southeast Asia doing whatever it was. And these guys for the most part, they were serious about getting whatever they, they were doing. And I'm this kid in there with all of these--and man that was, that was an eye opener, because these people worked at school. And I was you know you get 50 percent and you're okay, you passed, no you had, a 70 or 75 [percent] and to get an A man you had to get like 96 [percent] (laughter) on a test. I never heard of such a thing, I'm in this environment and didn't have good study habits, didn't know really how to study and struggling to compete. And being reminded, I had a counselor old guy he said, "Why, why don't you try this, American history. Make little note cards of, of important dates that you have to remember and write them on the note card. Last thing before you go to bed, recite them, memorize them, and first thing in the morning, get up and that's the first thing you see." And man, I tried that and it started to work and then he said, "Wherever you write a date, don't just remember the date, remember or know a pertinent fact that will remind you of the date." And that's, how I learned, learned to study, and it took me a little time, but I got, I got to it and then it. Man it, then I start getting good grades, I start feeling good and a nerd glasses and all that good stuff.$$(Laughter).$That's what I was wondering, I don't know, is there, you find cultural challenges around the world trying to do 'Sesame Street' show in another country that may have a different cultural (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes.$$--standard or different mores about how to--$$Yeah.$$--approach different things?$$Yes and the way we, we, we deal with them, what we have learned having done almost thirty of these, what we call co-productions. The worst thing we can do is take an American show and then just subtitle it with the local language and say go do it, doesn't work. There are, that, that's only worked where people wanna be American, and there are very few places in the last twenty years with that's what the, (laughter) that's what the deal is. Our approach is, we begin with engaging people that are good advocates or representatives of the education objectives of a community. So we were asked by SABC way back when to sell them 'Sesame Street,' and the organization [Sesame Workshop], I was not here, nothing to do with it. The organization said no, and for eight years these requests were made and we did not sell the 'Sesame Street' shows to South Africa, apartheid and part of the boycott--$$SABC, South African Broadcasting company (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) South African Broadcasting Corporation. After the change there, we were approached and we considered doing a 'Sesame Street' production in South Africa. And there is one it's called 'Takalani Sesame,' and the approach we used there is the way we do it in where we're asked. Who are the local voices that can represent what of the needs of children and how media can address those needs? So we have our researchers here, we dispatched them to go and find people that we ought to have a conversation with about how we can make content that works for the local child. A broadcaster who will broadcast it, local funding that will support it, and if not local funding, international funding that will support it. And then we go in country and select a producer, and hire writers and actually try to create the content right there. We become teachers at first and then advisors the local producers that we hire to go in and make the shows. And the consequence is the South African show is South African, they don't just have American characters they have their own characters. But their curriculum is one that they valued, they wanted AIDS [acquired immunodeficiency syndrome] in the curriculum, and we said no. 'Cause we didn't know how to teach AIDS or prevention whatever. They said, "Our children are being stigmatized in school and their learning is being retarded because people try not to associate with them. Because they are victims of, of AIDS," parents died all that. And we ended up working with them created a special Muppet called Kami which on this show models behavior that if children copied they'd be safe. So washing of hands you know and that kind of stuff, but also you can play with Kami just because she's HIV [human immunodeficiency virus] positive, doesn't mean you'll, if you play with her, you will get the disease. And we've got now the research coming back corroborating and validating that this has been important in moving how children see these diseases. Now it took me a visit there to see why this was such a important thing. You walk up to the, in Johannesburg [South Africa], the department of education, on one side of the wall they have painted on their educational objectives. Eradication of poverty, nation building, language commonalty things like that, and on the left hand side of it they've got their AIDS policy. And I asked, "Why is that," and they said, "We have lost, and we are losing more professionals in the nursing and teaching than any other group. And as we are losing teachers, it's impacting children in the classroom, so we can't be silent on this." And my point is they helped us to figure out how to, on a preschooler show, treat the subject how to deal with it. We got criticism here, but over there, it's, it's, it's, it works. So there are local needs and there are more AIDS and there are practices and we aim to let that be curriculum based as we included in the show. As long as it doesn't violate what we believe are universal and good values, and we use our subjective measures here. We didn't tend not to teach religion obviously politics and segment divisions like that we tend not. Because for a child it's important they learn how to work together, how not to work together. And what can we agree on? There's such universal values as honesty, the value of education, sharing, basic skills, ABCs, one, two three. Gender, it's important for girls to learn as well as boys to learn.