Sylvia Pate: Purveyor of Black History

Wright Dunbar Day is happening on July 5 from 1-6pm on the block of South Williams Street. Vendors, restaurants, food trucks, live music, museum experiences, and more will be open to the public. As part of the celebration, the 2019-2020 Dayton Skyscrapers Art Exhibit Series: An African American Visual Artists Tribute to African American Heroes of Dayton and the Miami Valley Region will open.

This innovative and creative African American visual arts project that began in 2007 continues to identify and celebrate African Americans from the Dayton Miami Valley region who are high achievers and contributors to the quality of life in the region.

The following is one of the pieces on display, and we encourage you to visit Willis “Bing” Davis’ art gallery to see the rest of the exhibit on Wright Dunbar Day.

“Sylvia Pate: Purveyor of Black History” by Clifford Darrett, Oil Paint on Canvas, 30″w x 36″ H x 2″ D

Sylvia Jeanne Pate was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. Her family lived in Steubenville, Ohio, Manhattan, New York, and ultimately move to Lima, Ohio where she graduated from Lima South High School. She attended Bowling Green State and Wright State Universities. At BGSU she became an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority member.

Sylvia served 31 years in the federal government, beginning in 1956 as a clerk typist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) in Ohio. She continued her education at the Air Force Professional Personnel School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, The Air Force Institute of Technology at WPAFB, and the American Management Association in New York. While at WPAFB, Sylvia held positions as secretary, administration officer, program analyst, personnel staffing and management specialist, and equal employment manager. In a 1981 transfer, she served as the Federal Women’s Program Manager for the U.S. Department of the Air Force (Pentagon, Washington D.C.) – the first African American in this position. She was instrumental in getting all of the branches of the Armed Forces to honor “Black History Month” in February. She later was appointed to the first manager for the Air Force Black Employment Program and served as spokeswoman for all matters pertaining to the equal employment of women and blacks. Sylvia also was responsible for the department’s Overseas Employment Program. In 1987, her final government position was as the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity under the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C.

Sylvia retired from the federal government and returned to Ohio where she established her own human resource development consulting firm, Quality Connections, LLC.

From 1990 to 1994, she served as the Director of the Dayton Black Cultural Festival. She was instrumental in taking a one day neighborhood festival at Burkham Park to a three day annual event that brought in vendors, entertainment, and families from many regions of the United States to Dayton, Ohio.

In 1999, she was first appointed, then elected to the Jefferson Township School Board, later as the President of the Board. Sylvia was involved in her church New Hope Lutheran in Dayton, Ohio, where she started their first food pantry. She also served for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), including Interim Director of the Commission for Women in Chicago, Illinois. In 1997, she was elected president of the African American Lutheran Association (AALA), a partnership between the ELCA and the African American community.

She was a captivating speaker and an active member of the Toastmistress Club.

-written by artist Clifford Darrett