The NAACP has chosen MIT alumnus Bruce S. Gordon, a retired Verizon senior executive, to be the president and CEO of the civil rights organization. A fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Gordon received his S.M. degree in 1988.
Gordon's appointment is scheduled to be confirmed at the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee tomorrow, July 14. He was unanimously selected by the board of directors on June 25.
Gordon, 59, built a 35-year career in the telecommunications industry, working through the ranks of Bell of Pennsylvania, which became Bell Atlantic and then Verizon. Gordon presided over the company's biggest division, retail markets, before retiring in 2003. His unit brought in some $25 billion in annual revenues and served 33 million residential customers. Gordon was named one of the 50 most powerful black executives by Fortune in 2002 and Executive of the Year in 1998 by Black Enterprise magazine.
Gordon's corporate background marks a change for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which has historically been led by politicians, civil rights activists or clergy members. The embattled organization faces misconduct allegations following former President Kweisi Mfume's resignation in December 2004, and the IRS is auditing the organization's nonprofit status after Chairman Julian Bond criticized President Bush during the 2004 presidential campaign.
"I do have a civil rights history," Gordon said at a press conference announcing his selection. "It's just different than some others." The son of activists, he began attending NAACP meetings at age 8 in Camden, N.J., a branch his father founded. Throughout his career at Verizon and as a member of the Executive Leadership Council, a national organization of black executives, Gordon has mentored younger blacks to succeed in corporate careers.
"The world has changed.â€¦We have a new and different set of challenges," Gordon said. "We will make sure that our focus and our purpose reflect the kind of issues and challenges that we see today, which in many respects are different, more subtle, more complex than they were 40 or 50 years ago." He said his immediate goals for the NAACP include building the endowment to allow for sustainable financial stability and expanding the half-million member group in numbers, demographics and skill sets.