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After 50 Years, Founder Bill Strickland Named Executive Chairman, Kevin Jenkins Named President and CEO

Marking half a century of success, Manchester Bidwell Corporation’s (MBC) Board of Directors has named Bill Strickland Executive Chairman, elevating him to an expanded public-facing role focused on spreading the message and the model that has made MBC an internationally renowned career training and arts institution. He will focus on public speaking and stakeholder relations, fundraising, and extending the MBC model in other regions with additional partners. Strickland is himself something of an institution in the Pittsburgh region and beyond, having pioneered the concept of partnering with industry to establish career training curriculum and providing empowering educational environments for adults in transition and youth arts students—all in a North Side setting that motivates and inspires.

With this transition, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Jenkins becomes President and CEO, poised to continue his partnership with Strickland as the organization advances, grows, and establishes its unique model in other cities. So far, MBC has launched 11 other centers around the world: Boston; Brockway, Pa.; Buffalo; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Grand Rapids, Mich.; New Haven, Conn.; San Francisco; Sharon, Pa.; and Akko, Israel with more centers signed on to open in other cities.

“We’re celebrating 50 years of the outstanding work of an African-American-led organization in Pittsburgh that began during the riots and strife affecting Pittsburgh in 1968,” said Greg Jordan, chairman of the MBC Board. “This leadership transition is timely as we acknowledge the significance of Bill’s and MBC’s achievements and sharpen our focus on the future.”

MBC houses a series of affiliate programs—MCG Youth & Arts, Bidwell Training Center (BTC), MCG Jazz, The Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology (DMC), and the National Centers for Art and Technology—that all operate under the same guiding principles: environment shapes behavior, people are assets not liabilities, and creativity fuels enterprise.

Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) was established in 1968 as a way for Strickland—19 years old at the time—to serve his community following the chaos and violence that emerged from Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Originally located in an abandoned, drug halfway house on Buena Vista Street with a simple potter’s wheel and small photo studio, today—now known as MCG Youth & Arts—it offers ceramics, design, digital, and photography classes at no cost to Pittsburgh Public High School students. Ninety-eight percent of students who participate in MCG Youth & Arts graduate high school on time, compared to 80 percent of their PPS peers.

BTC emerged from the same strife in 1968 on Bidwell Street to provide vocational training and employment opportunities. Originally the primary focus of training was in construction trades including carpentry, bricklaying, plumbing, and electrical wiring. In 1972, Strickland was hired to lead BTC and established the innovative approach of partnering with industry to provide career training for fields that are in demand, which today include medical assistant, laboratory technician, pharmacy technician, culinary arts, and horticulture technology among others. This is also at no cost to qualifying students. BTC has been recognized as an ACCSC School of Excellence two consecutive times in 2012 and 2017.

Strickland’s idea was to create a unique learning environment that would serve the needs of the community and provide educational opportunities to anyone who aspired to achieve their dreams by becoming productive citizens. For half a century, tens of thousands of people have participated and benefitted from MBC’s affiliate programs.

“We believe that our history of programs that started under impossible economic and social circumstances and were transformed into world-class arts and education organizations continues to serve as a powerful source of hope locally and internationally,” said Strickland. “It’s a challenge to describe how much it means to all of us at MBC to be part of half a century of making people whole by helping them find the skills and paths to become productive members of society.”

Strickland expressed his enthusiasm for the MBC team that will manage the continued evolution of the organization.

“We have built such a strong team here, and Kevin has the skills and vision to keep our momentum going as we expand our proven programs into other cities and regions,” Strickland said. “I’m looking forward to connecting with many more people to share our model, continue raising funds to drive it, and reach many more people who will benefit from MBC programs.”

In his new role, Jenkins is focused on championing Strickland’s vision that he set out in 1968, undertaking the early leadership phase of a comprehensive campaign, and—as Strickland had done before him—adapting MBC’s tools, resources, and methods to continue to best serve those who are searching for ways to change their lives.

“I am honored to follow in Bill’s footsteps and continue the mission of building empowering educational environments,” said Jenkins. “I’m excited about the innovative programs that we’re developing at MBC for a new generation.”