Every year since it launched in 2015, Madison365 — the nonprofit news outlet focused on communities of color across Wisconsin — has published a list of the state’s most influential black leaders. Every year, it’s a broad sampling of grassroots neighborhood advocates, educators, lawyers, elected officials, civil servants, vice presidents, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and more.
“It was important for us to expand the way we think about influence and to highlight more of the people doing what it takes to improve their community,” writes Madison365 publisher Henry Sanders.
For the past year and a half, the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association has partnered with Madison365 to produce Badger Vibes, the newsletter celebrating the diverse Wisconsin experience that you’re reading right now. So it only makes sense to highlight those on this year’s list, published in December, with UW connections. They include four alumni who now hold important positions in both the public and private sectors, one University of Wisconsin diversity and inclusion leader, the president of UW Health Madison Region, and our own Gia Gallimore, WFAA’s director of diverse alumni engagement.
Get to know these seven accomplished and inspirational leaders, but rest assured, there are many more out there doing the work. Check out the entire list at madison365.org/blackpower2019.
Harper Donahue ’03, MBA’12 was appointed as the City of Madison’s human resource director in January 2019. Prior to his appointment, he served as the interim director of the Human Resources Department since September 2017. As director, Donahue is responsible for leading the work of the Human Resources Department. He works closely with the mayor and other managers to achieve a diverse city workforce. He is a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Carl Hampton JD’99 is senior diversity and inclusion officer for the University of Wisconsin System, based in Madison. Hampton came to this position in 2016 after many years of practice and service as an attorney and high-ranking federal, state, and local government official for the State of Wisconsin, including as a policy adviser to and legislative liaison for Gov. Jim Doyle ’67. Hampton earned his undergraduate degree in political science at Stanford and his law degree from the University of Wisconsin. He serves as a volunteer mentor for 100 Black Men of Madison, a member of the Rotary Club of Madison Racial Equity Inclusion Committee, and a member of the board of the UnityPoint Health Foundation.
Ed Holmes ’82, MS’90, PhD’13 is the vice president for equity and innovation at Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, one of the largest and most active performing arts centers in the nation. Prior to joining Overture in 2016, Holmes spent 38 years in community-based and public educational programs, including 10 years as principal at Madison West High School. In that capacity he is credited with keeping West High ranked as one of the top public high schools in the State of Wisconsin for a decade, as measured by its composite SAT and ACT scores, number of National Merit finalists and Presidential Scholars; successfully implementing a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Education Smaller Learning Communities grant; closing achievement gaps between ethnic minority students and their white counterparts over a three-year span while raising achievement scores of all student subgroups; and restructuring the school to create opportunities for 250 faculty and staff to engage with 2,200 students daily through the West High Lunch and Learn Program. In 2019, he helped Overture bring the second annual Wisconsin Leadership Summit to Madison, hosting nearly 600 leaders of color from across the state for discussion, professional development, networking, and community-building.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor ’78, MS’79 was named Wisconsin state superintendent of public instruction in January, when former superintendent Tony Evers ’73, MS’76, PhD’86 was inaugurated as governor. Taylor has decades of experience in public education, including 17 years as the assistant state superintendent for the Division for Learning Support. As a child, she and her family were among the first to integrate the schools in Marks, Mississippi. Taylor was also the first female African American appointed to serve as an assistant state superintendent and is one of Wisconsin’s longest-serving assistant state superintendents.
Sheridan Blanford joined the University of Wisconsin Athletics Department Diversity and Inclusion staff in August 2017 and was named the director of inclusion in 2018. She assesses and leads the current Division of Intercollegiate Athletics programming, initiatives, policies, and procedures regarding diversity issues, and she facilitates a diverse and inclusive culture across dimensions of diversity for student-athletes, coaches, administration, and other constituents on campus and in the community. Blanford has attended the Learfield Minority Academy each of the last two years, serving as an alumni ambassador at the 2018 event. Women Leaders in College Sports honored Blanford with its 2018 Rising Star Award, and she received a scholarship to attend the 2018 Women Leaders National Convention, held in October 2018 in Atlanta.
Frederic “Ric” Ransom serves as vice president and president of UW Hospitals, Madison Region, where he provides overall direction for American Family Children’s Hospital, UW Health at the American Center, and University Hospital. Previously, he served as chief operating officer at Greenville Memorial Hospital, a part of Prisma Health, the largest integrated health system in South Carolina. Ransom provides primary oversight for the Joint Operating Agreement with UnityPoint Health–Meriter and multiple clinical programs and services.
Gia Gallimore is the director of diverse alumni engagement at the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA). One of her core goals is to connect alumni of color with the alumni association at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. To do so, Gallimore had a hand in creating a strategic plan for diverse engagement, including strengthening the alumni of color network, enhancing marketing and engagement programs, and cultivating student-to-alumni connections. She is also the founder of and driving force behind Badger Vibes, a monthly newsletter highlighting faculty, students, and alumni of color in order to celebrate the diverse UW experience, produced in partnership between WFAA and Madison365.