(May 11, 2017 – ANNAPOLIS, Md.) Prince George’s Community College Chief of Staff Alonia Sharps will never forget the day she met Charlene M. Dukes, Ed.D.
“I met Dr. Dukes at a conference, and she was making a presentation,” Sharps recalled. “Her handling of the presentation, as well as her ability to maneuver the questions that were asked, led me to believe that she was a woman who could be a dynamic leader. I saw vision in her responses to the questions.”
More than 20 years and countless transformed students later, Sharps is just one of the many Marylanders who have witnessed Duke’s incredible vision firsthand. She also watched Dukes become the first female president of PGCC.
On May 17, Dukes will be inducted into the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Business Hall of Fame – an elite group of individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, vision, character, courage and community commitment.
As a first-generation college graduate with eight brothers and sisters, Dukes is able to see herself in the students she serves – students who have dreams, but are not quite sure how to fulfill them. Her natural ability to empathize with many of her students who come from large, low-income families is the result of her modest upbringing.
“My mom and dad never had the opportunity to think about college or higher education,” Dukes shared. “And so, for them, it was a dream that all of their children pursued something beyond high school.
“I really leaned on people throughout high school and college, and even in my professional career, to help guide me, mentor me, and show me the way,” she continued. “What I hope is that I have the opportunity to give some of that back to students and to employees who wish to have better lives and be good, productive citizens.”
According to Dukes, undergraduates at PGCC are better equipped to realize their full potential because of the strong partnership the community college has with the local Maryland business community.
“In many ways, she’s a maven,” Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Harrington said. “She’s the one who is bringing the business community to the college and is creating relationships through which the whole community thrives.”
When Harrington offered Dukes a seat on his chamber’s board, she accepted quickly.
“She was one of the first people that I thought of to be on the board of the Chamber,” Harrington said. “But, I knew that would be would be a tough ask because her schedule probably rivals any executive of a top Fortune 500 company.
“But in her drive and her passion to be part of the community, she immediately said yes. And notwithstanding her schedule and the demands that are placed on her, she’s a very active member of the Prince George’s Chamber.”
Although her focus is on education, Dukes understands that business plays a pivotal role in her work—and that the Maryland Chamber of Commerce supports that role.
“At the beginning of any day or the end of any week, we want to make sure that we have neighbors who can have a quality of life that makes it amenable for them and their families to do well and to be well, to be good citizens, to be productive,” Dukes said. “All of that happens because it’s an ecosystem that brings education, the business community, and residents together in order to make a better Maryland – and that’s what the [Maryland] Chamber does.”
Dukes said the relationship between business and education is a symbiotic one. Ultimately, it’s about synergy and how we come together in our own respective roles to give something back to the community.
“Her vision is grounded in purpose,” Harrington said. “She wanted to build the best education environment and institution in a way that students leave PGCC well prepared to go out into the workforce or build their own businesses – that’s what she is passionate about.”
The 2017 Maryland Business Hall of Fame Awards will be held Wednesday, May 17 at the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport Hotel. Dukes will be inducted along with Patricia Brown of Johns Hopkins HealthCare and Alan Wilson, the recently retired chair, president and CEO of McCormick & Company. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh will be the featured speaker.