Five outstanding cooperative leaders will receive the cooperative community’s most prestigious honor on October 3, 2024, when they are inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame at the Hamilton Hotel in Washington, DC.
The inductees are: Nannie Helen Burroughs, Unsung Hero, Co-Founder, Cooperative Industries of Washington, DC; Tony Bedard, CEO, Frontier Co-op; Dr. Christina Clamp, Educator and Researcher, Southern New Hampshire University; Vernon Oakes, Host, Everything Co-op; and Clifford Rosenthal, Retired President and CEO, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Inclusiv).
“This year’s inductees represent the breadth and inclusiveness of the cooperative sector in addressing the needs of communities,” said Rich Larochelle, Chair of the Cooperative Development Foundation’s Board of Directors. “From supporting farmers around the world through fair trade practices, to helping people gain access to financial services, to affordable housing, to advancing co-op innovation and knowledge through training, research and education, these inductees have dedicated their lives to helping people and communities through cooperatives. And they all represent how cooperation among cooperatives—Principle 6—can nurture and grow the community through their generous sharing of knowledge, financial support and philanthropy across sectors and cooperatives.”
Celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2024, the Cooperative Hall of Fame provides CDF with funds to support cooperative development and education. We invite you to celebrate with us by practicing Principle 6 through sponsorship of the event. The 2023 Cooperative Hall of Fame was sold out, so don’t wait to cooperate. Support the 50th Anniversary and the 2024 inductees today!
Nannie Helen Burroughs
Unsung Hero, Co-Founder, Cooperative Industries of Washington, DC
Nannie Helen Burroughs believed that cooperatives offered Black communities a viable alternative to the hardships of the Great Depression, and she took inspiration from the Rochdale Co-operative Society of the District of Columbia. Founder and acclaimed leader of the National Baptist Women’s Convention, Mrs. Burroughs also co-founded the Northeast Self Help Cooperative in 1936, an agricultural and consumer cooperative in Washington, DC, later renamed as Cooperative Industries.
As president of Cooperative Industries, Mrs. Burroughs developed a National Training School that the cooperative used as its production and manufacturing plant to produce brooms and mattresses. With the help of a grant from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Mrs. Burroughs expanded the cooperative with the purchase of agricultural land in Maryland to form a producer cooperative. As a multi-stakeholder cooperative with an integrated set of industrial cooperatives, Cooperative Industries eventually grew to include a community medical clinic, broom factory, sewing unit, canning department, grocery store, furniture manufacturing unit, and a cooperative farm and produce market.
Committed to teaching others about cooperatives, Mrs. Burroughs attracted new members through education on Cooperative Values and Principles. She utilized the National Training School as the organizational base for her educational and political endeavors, enabling its students to experience firsthand the cooperative’s daily operations. The National Training School was later renamed the National Trade and Professional School where Mrs. Burroughs created a course entitled Cooperatives: The New Program for Economic Security.
Cooperative Industries operated for four years at the tail end of the Great Depression. Thanks to Mrs. Burroughs’ efforts in harnessing the cooperative business model, Cooperative Industries helped meet the needs of working mothers in her community. Transformed by her own experience of discrimination, disappointment, and financial hardship, she fostered economic empowerment and created a safety net for Black women and children and ultimately served more than 6,000 residents of Northeast Washington, DC.
CEO, Frontier Co-op
By championing the idea that doing good in the world and growing a financially successful business is not mutually exclusive, Tony Bedard has been instrumental in realizing Frontier Co-op’s stated purpose: that “Doing Good, Works.” Tony started his career with Frontier Co-op as Head of Operations in 1991 and became its CEO in 2003. Under his leadership, Frontier Co-op grew from $36.5 million in net sales to $235.9 million in 2023 and contributed more than $10 million to philanthropy worldwide.
A leading manufacturer of globally sourced and sustainably produced herbs, botanicals, and plant-based products, Frontier Co-op is committed to sourcing high-quality products while creating life-changing opportunities for its growers, employees, and communities. From their facilities in small-town Iowa to sourcing communities around the globe, Tony has dedicated his 30-year tenure at Frontier Co-op to growing a purpose-driven cooperative that maximizes value and positive impact in the communities it serves.
Tony’s commitment to ensuring that Frontier Co-op has a lasting, positive impact on its partners led to the formation of the Well Earth impact sourcing program. Through this program, Frontier Co-op has led dozens of community and business-building projects around the globe, including a recent collaboration with the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council and USAID’s Cooperative Development Program.
For Frontier Co-op, doing good starts internally. To address systemic challenges related to employment and economic mobility, Tony spearheaded the Breaking Down Barriers to Employment program, implementing second-chance hiring practices. Alongside partners, they designed an apprenticeship program to provide the training needed for success at Frontier Co-op or other manufacturing companies. Since its inception in 2018, the company has adopted and advocated for second-chance hiring practices and built out a transportation program to support its employees. To date, 20% of Frontier Co-op’s production employees have been hired through their Breaking Down Barriers to Employment program.
With a global vision and a personal dedication to creating a positive impact through the cooperative business model, Tony’s leadership at Frontier Co-op exemplifies doing good by people and the planet.
Dr. Christina Clamp
Educator and Researcher, Southern New Hampshire University
As a leading educator and researcher for cooperatives for over 40 years, there are few sectors in the cooperative movement left untouched by Dr. Christina Clamp. From cutting edge research on worker- and shared-services-cooperatives to training generations of cooperators to building and connecting cooperatives to broader movements for community economic development and the social solidarity economy, Chris is a steadfast champion of cooperatives.
Chris began her tenure as a professor at Southern New Hampshire University in 1981, where she created a master’s program in community economic development designed to serve mid-career professionals and a certificate in cooperative development. Over the years, her efforts have led to the development of a farming cooperative of Somali refugees in Maine and a network of rural village-based cooperatives in Cameroon, to name a few.
Best known for her research on Mondragon (the world’s largest worker cooperative), Chris increased the understanding of how the network has addressed globalization and informed worker cooperative human resource strategies. But worker cooperatives haven’t been her only focus. A business school case study she researched about CCA Global Partners led Chris to co-author a book on shared-services cooperatives, pioneering research on the use of purchasing, marketing, processing, and distribution in the business, finance, health, and public sectors of the U.S. economy. She documented how state and federal governments create financial incentives to promote shared-service strategies that help countless groups lower expenses and better meet service needs.
For decades, Chris has also been a vital educator of the cooperative community. Among her many past students are John Holdsclaw IV, Micha Josephy, Noemi Giszpenc, Ajowa Ifateyo, Candace Robinson, Mitty Owens, Juan Leyton, Tanya Gracie, and 2023 Cooperative Hall of Fame Inductee Linda Leaks.
Anticipating retirement from Southern New Hampshire University in 2023, Chris remains active in research. She recently co-edited a collection of 30 essays highlighting the story of Mondragon and its ongoing influence in the United States: Humanity @ Work & Life: Global Diffusion of the Mondragon Cooperative Ecosystem Experience. Her extensive scope of activities and publications reflect the depth and breadth of her unwavering commitment to cooperatives and community-based ownership.
Host, Everything Co-op
Guided by the belief that the power of self-help and community can overcome adversity and provide positive outcomes for society, Vernon Oakes has utilized his radio show, Everything Co-op, to elevate the voices of cooperative leaders who organize, maintain, support, and grow cooperatives. In October 2023, Everything Co-op celebrated 10 years on air and has over 365 episodes with themes ranging from cooperative development to advocacy all with the goal of sharing the power of cooperatives through education.
Vernon received an MBA from Stanford University, an MS in Mathematics from Penn State, and a BS in Mathematics and Chemistry from Bluefield State College. He was the first Chair of the Afro-American Studies Department at San Diego State University and coordinated the MBA program at Howard University in Washington, DC. He has ten years of teaching experience at the college level and two years’ experience training adults for the U.S. Department of Interior.
Earlier in his career, Vernon spent a decade working for a Fortune 500 Company, first as the President’s assistant and then four years as Director of International Parts Marketing, traveling the world performing marketing studies. During the latter five years, Vernon ran a distributorship for the company in Puerto Rico.
In 1994, Vernon launched a property management company in Washington, DC. Among his first contracts was a limited equity housing cooperative comprised of mostly African-American women. Inspired by the members’ ability to make sound decisions rooted in integrity and engage in fruitful deliberation, he began to study the cooperative business model. Soon after, he became involved with the Potomac Association of Housing Cooperatives and the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (eventually becoming its President).
Through cooperatives, Vernon found a world of people dedicated to democratizing humanity and intent on making societal changes for the betterment of communities, particularly communities of color. Under that premise, Vernon sought support from the National Cooperative Bank (NCB) to sustain his drive and passion for a vibrant educational program that gives voice to cooperatives. NCB has been the primary sponsor of Everything Co-op since 2014.
After retiring from his property management company in 2019, Vernon became a member-owner of Columinate, a national consulting and management services cooperative, and actively participates on the development team of one of Columinate’s new business units, Common Good Management Services. Common Good is focused on providing property management services for community-owned and governed affordable housing initiatives, including resident owned manufactured home communities and community land trusts to support permanent affordability initiatives. Firm in his belief that cooperatives can solve community problems and help people come out of poverty with dignity, Vernon continues his mission to educate about cooperatives through Common Good and Everything Co-op.
Retired President/CEO, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Inclusiv)
Introduced to credit unions in the late 1970s, Clifford Rosenthal has spent his career promoting financial equity and inclusion in the nation’s most overlooked and underserved communities. Growing up amidst transformative campaigns for social justice in the 1960s, Cliff began his cooperative journey by organizing and managing food cooperatives in New York City and Connecticut. This eventually led him to Washington, DC, and the National Association of Farmworker Organizations where he was tasked to organize a credit union to serve its members.
Upon his return to New York, Cliff joined the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (the Federation), first as a volunteer until he was hired as staff. By early 1983, the Federation was preparing to close for good after federal funding was eliminated. Sustained by his conviction that community development credit unions (CDCUs) were important and must be preserved, he once again took on a volunteer role as the Federation’s Executive Director. In partnership with Annie Vamper, the pair rebuilt the Federation into a catalyst for transformative change.
Understanding the critical role capital plays in low-income communities and CDCUs, Cliff pursued a two-pronged strategy to capitalize CDCUs by creating new channels to mobilize private investments and by expanding sources of public financing. This eventually led to the birth of the CDFI Fund in 1994 after President Clinton signed the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act. As well, he worked to secure NCUA’s issuance of a rule allowing low-income credit unions the exclusive privilege of raising secondary capital.
Cliff retired from the Federation in 2012, renamed Inclusiv in 2019, to join the federal government as the first head of the Office of Financial Empowerment within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He subsequently published Democratizing Finance: Origins of the Community Development Financial Institutions Movement. In 2019, he was inducted into the African American Credit Union Hall of Fame.