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Biographies of the 2023 Isibani Award Recipients

DR. SHARON ROBINSON Dr. Sharon Robinson, MD is a pediatrics specialist in Evanston, IL and has over 24 years of experience in the medical field. She became the Board Chair of the Evanston Community Foundation in July of 2023. She graduated from Indiana University School Of Medicine in 1998. She is affiliated with medical facilities such as Glenbrook Hospital and Evanston Hospital.

Recipient Biographies

REV. GRACE IMATHIU Rev. Grace Imathiu is Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church Evanston, IL. She has also served churches in Kenya as a church planter; a superintendent minister overseeing 68 rural churches in Nkubu; and an urban minister to an ecumenical congregation in Nairobi with strong outreach to the neighboring slums of Kawangware. Pastor Grace is intimately familiar with the Church in its many theological expressions and social locations. Grace loves people and has a passion and gift for inspiring and nurturing communities of faith to live out loud the prophetic story of Jesus. For Grace, the quintessential expression of the resurrected Lord’s presence is a community whose very DNA is a radical hospitality which births a loving and a healthy tension that is ideological, theological, racial, ethnic and cultural. For Rev. Imathiu “the world is her parish”. As an African who is married to a European and is raising an American son, Grace is committed to advocating for the inclusion of all people. She has preached in Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Togo, Liberia, Denmark, Australia, Malaysia, Brazil, and all throughout the United States. In 2016, Rev. Grace is married to David Hay Jones and together they are the parents of one child.

VENITA E. FIELDS Venita Fields is a Partner of Pelham S2K and a member of the Pelham S2K Investment Committee. Previously, Ms. Fields was a Senior Managing Director and Partner of Smith Whiley & Company. She managed the firm’s Chicago office and was a senior member of Smith Whiley’s Investment Committee that directed and managed its three private equity funds. Prior to joining Smith Whiley, Venita spent nineteen years in the commercial finance departments of various financial institutions, including ten years at Bank of America. During her tenure at Bank of America, she achieved the rank of Senior Vice President, leading a team of originators of leveraged transactions in the Midwest and Canadian markets. Prior to joining Bank of America, Venita managed an investment origination team at Citicorp North America. She began her career at Continental Illinois National Bank in Chicago. Ms. Fields earned a B.A. from Northwestern University and a Masters of Management degree from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

STEVEN ROGERS Steven Rogers retired from Harvard Business School (HBS) in 2019 where he was the “MBA Class of 1957 Senior Lecturer” in General Management. He taught Entrepreneurial Finance and a new course that he created, titled “Black Business Leaders and Entrepreneurship.” 1985 graduate of the school, Professor Rogers holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Williams College. Prior to HBS, Professor Rogers taught in the MBA and PhD programs at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. He received the Outstanding Professor Award for the Executive MBA Program 26 times and daytime program twice. Both are records. In 2023, he purchased a church that sits on land taken from Black families in 1929. In 2022, he published his third book, Successful Black Entrepreneurs, and in 2021, he published, A Letter to my White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Now to Help the Black Community. In 2020, he published the 4th edition of, Entrepreneurial Finance: Finance and Business Strategies for the Serious Entrepreneur. He has also authored 30 HBS case studies, most of which have Black protagonists. He has published more case studies with Black protagonists than anyone in the country. In 2019, he toured 10 HBCUs where he taught a workshop, Finance for Black Entrepreneurs. In 2017, he received the “Black Brilliance in Service” award from Harvard Law School’s Black Law Students Association, and in that same year, Poets & Quants Magazine selected him as one of “Our Favorite MBA Professors of 2017.” In 2016, he was a volunteer professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point Army, where he received the West Point cadets’ sword for “Expert Teaching and Professionalism.” He has taught in Africa, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Philippines, and Vienna. Before becoming a professor, he owned and operated two manufacturing firms and one retail operation. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Professor Rogers worked at Bain + Company consulting firm, Cummins Engine Company and UNC Ventures, a venture capital firm. He also owns a real estate company that invests in residential properties on the South Side of Chicago. He is also a partner in Nubian Square Ascends, a real estate development firm in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He received the “Bicentennial Medal for Distinguished Achievement” by an alum from Williams College, and the “Bert King Award for Service” from the African American Student Union at HBS. Ebony Magazine named him one of the top 150 influential people in America. Dominican University presented him with the Award for Entrepreneurship and Ethics in Business. Radnor High School inducted him into it’s Hall of Fame. Professor Rogers’ governance experiences span over two decades. He has served as a Trustee for Williams College, and the Visiting Committee for HBS. His corporate Board experiences includes SuperValu (Chairman, Governance Committee), Duquesne Light (Chairman, Finance Committee), Oakmark Mutual Funds (Chairman, Audit Committee and Investment Review Committee), W. S. Darley (Lead Director) and S. C. Johnson Wax. He has completed five Triathlons and is part owner of the Chicago Sky, the 2021 WNBA Champions. Rogers has two daughters, Akilah and Ariel.

DELANO O'BANION Delano O’Banion, a native Chicagoan, attended Chicago public schools and played clarinet and bassoon in the Phillips High School Concert Band. As a senior at Phillips High School, O’Banion became a student assistant band director and drum major. Later he began singing various classical styles of choral music, then learned to sing oratorio and opera in the Hartzell Methodist Church’s Young People Choir (1951-1955). During this period, he received a scholarship to study voice at the Sherwood Music School in Chicago. In 1955, O’Banion received an academic music scholarship to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Fisk University, O’Banion toured the United States and Europe with the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers. Upon graduation from Fisk University in 1959 with his B.S. degree in music, O’Banion began a teaching career that spanned forty-six years. He became active as a classical soloist, singing oratorio, opera, recitals, and major orchestral works throughout the Midwest. In 1961, along with several alumni friends from Fisk University, O’Banion established The John Work Chorale. His love for conducting this choral group became his primary work.The John Work Chorale specializes in preserving nurturing the perpetuation of singing Negro Spirituals in the original style of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. O’Banion also served as the choral director at Marshall High School for several years. O’Banion has served as minister of music for two churches and board member of the Chicago Dance and Music Alliance, the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Board of Trustees at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church. He has received numerous awards for excellence in music, education, and community service.

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