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Remembering Rolfe Neill – G.O.A.T.
From the Publisher
Rolfe Neill, one of Charlotte’s greatest leaders of all time, died on July 14, 2023. I had the privilege of experiencing first-hand the unique qualities of his leadership style when he was publisher of the “Charlotte Observer” during the late 80s and 90s. Without question, he opened a door of opportunity for me, which has led to a career in Charlotte, North Carolina, I never imagined in my wildest dreams.
The first call back from Rolfe
I’ve told this story often. Having moved back to my parents’ home with three children after a traumatic divorce, I was looking for a job — not a career. It was a harrowing time in my life. At one point, I read something in the Observer about the difficulty in finding qualified minorities to work. Livid and planning to give Rolfe Neill a piece of my mind, I called the Observer and asked to speak to him. As expected, I was told he was unavailable, so I left my name and number. To my surprise, Rolfe Neill actually called me back! I was dumbfounded. Long story short, with a recent master’s degree in urban administration, I ended up as an admin at the Observer in human resources.
For two years, Rolfe would occasionally ask me what I wanted to do at the newspaper. Finally, I responded by saying I wanted to sell advertising and thus began my career. A Black magazine — Community Pride — was born in 1993 during Rolfe’s tenure, and I was a part of the sales team.
I, along with many others, was saddened by Rolfe’s retirement in 1997. The quality that struck me the most about his leadership was his intuitiveness and uncanny ability to ask you a deep and unexpected question. He actually listened and remembered the conversation when he saw you again. It was a well-known fact Rolfe knew every employee by name and treated each with dignity and respect — no DEI training needed. After spending 14 years at the Observer, I left in 2001 as an entrepreneur, becoming the owner and publisher of “Pride Magazine.”
The final call back from Rolfe
Over the years, I periodically connected with Rolfe. In fact, he was one of the legends at our 2020 Pride Awards luncheon. It was such an honor to include him among such heroes as Ophelia Garmon-Brown, Harvey Gantt, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Dorothy Counts, James Ferguson and Thereasea Elder. Rolfe stood out as the only non-Black person on the stage. I was so very pleased to have him there!
Several months ago, I was saddened upon receiving the news Rolfe was in hospice. Reluctantly, I decided to give him a call, thinking he surely would be unable to talk. He did not answer, so I left a message. Shortly thereafter, he called me back — one last time! We talked and I was able to thank him for being such a meaningful part of my life’s journey.
Did you know there is a public tribute to Rolfe called the “Writer’s Desk” on 7th Street? It is a beautiful collection of quotes from his Sunday columns. I spent time reading them all. I like one in particular: “If we listen carefully, our critics instruct us better than our friends.” – Rolfe Neill
Notable Names • Dr. PAM OLIVER
Dr. Pam Oliver is the new executive vice president and chief medical officer of Novant Health. In this new role, Oliver has oversight of safety and quality measures as well as credentialing staff across the Novant Health enterprise, one of the largest healthcare systems in the Southeast. She most recently served as president of the Novant Health Physician Network and has been practicing at Novant Health since 2005.
“As chief medical officer, I’ll have the opportunity to expand my focus on safety and quality, medical education, clinical research, and health equity, which remains the driving force behind my work as both a physician and a woman of color,” said Oliver.
A native of eastern North Carolina, she received her undergraduate degree in biology and her medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead Scholar and Board of Governors’ scholarship recipient. She also earned her master’s degree in public health from the UNC School of Public Health.
Notable Names • Bre'Asia Demery
Congratulations to Bre'Asia Demery, a senior psychology major at Johnson C. Smith University, for being chosen to intern with the Be The Match stem cell and bone marrow donor registry. Be the Match helps people who have been impacted by sickle cell and blood-related illnesses, which Bre'Asia has experienced firsthand."I jumped at the opportunity to intern with Be the Match because I know what it feels like to have no voice. I'm happy to be a voice for patients who need it most," she says. During her internship, Bre'Asia will be collecting DNA samples, hosting events where she's able to tell her story, and will help those wanting to find a donor match. Thank you for doing this amazing work, Bre'Asia, and for sharing your story with those that need to hear it. We honor you today!
Notable Names • Fushcia-Ann Hoover, PhD.
Fushcia-Ann Hoover, PhD - Ann Hoover, assistant professor of geography and Earth sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has been inducted into the Harvard University Radcliffe Institute's 2023-24 class of fellows. As a fellow, Hoover will explore Black feminist ecological theory as a means for anti-racist environmental planning.
Hoover employs a range of approaches and perspectives in her work surrounding race, environmental justice and placemaking in social-ecological urban systems and green infrastructure performance. She has earned her master's degree and Doctor of Philosophy in ecological sciences and engineering from Purdue University. Congrats, Fushcia-Ann! We look forward to seeing your research implemented in the future.