A scholar, inventor, motivator who passed the torch

Historians get to answer questions about the meaning of lives. Often, we understand the meaning of entire chains of lives.
The life of Dr. Ralph Bunche has come into view recently. His receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948 paved the way for future prizes for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 and President Barack Obama in 2009.
Bunche’s saga demonstrates why every young person is a blessing to be nurtured. He delivered newspapers in the Central Avenue area of Los Angeles, which was a burgeoning neighborhood of entrepreneurs and entertainers.
In that atmosphere of aspiration, young Bunche set his goals high, becoming valedictorian of both his high school and UCLA.
With that background, he was able to pioneer the study of political science among African-Americans — a truly aspirational goal because African-Americans were shut out of political leadership in the 1930s at the local, state and federal levels.
As chairman of political science at Howard University, Bunche passed on his high standards to a generation of scholars. One of them was the father of Dr. Frank S. Greene Jr., a college professor in his own right.
Dr. Greene reached a number of milestones in his own right as the first black cadet to complete Air Force ROTC, as a professor of electrical engineering at Howard and Stanford, as a semiconductor designer for Fairchild Semiconductor, as founder of Technology Development Corp. and ZeroOne Systems; managing partner of three rounds of venture funding for NewVista Capital Management and developer of the VRE Leadership Model.
Early in his life, Dr. Bunche was a family friend who Dr. Greene saw as a model.
Last May, after meeting with community relations officers of the Los Angeles Police Department on the potential use of VRE for its officers, we went in search of Dr. Bunche’s childhood home.
Although it has been recognized as a national landmark, the house is not a big tourist attraction in Los Angeles. It took us over an hour to actually find it. But the joy on Dr. Greene’s face made it worthwhile.
I had no idea that less than a year later, I would attend a memorial service for Dr. Greene.
However, the process of discerning the meaning of his life is much deeper by knowing his connection to the life of Dr. Bunche.
Dr. King once said, ““Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Dr. Greene was a master at making money, as leader of the first black technology company to undertake an initial public offering. He also raised more than $80 million for his venture capital fund to invest in minority and women owned companies.
But he was always most concerned with helping people. By developing the VRE Leadership Model, he sought to refine what he had learned through assessing potential managers into a tool which can be used by everyone from elementary school students.
In the same way that Dr. Bunche impacted him, the impact of Dr. Greene’s service will endure for many more generations.

Dr.Greene with job readiness students at Western Addition Community Technology Center

No one was too humble to share his wisdom. He was just as motivated to share VRE with a group of former inmates and addicts in San Francisco’s Western Addition last year as with graduate business students.
Dr. Greene understood that life is a relay, in which we take the blessings that others have bestowed on us, and pass them on.
In so many ways, he passed the baton. Each of us must do the same.

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