~~Suzanne Vargus Holloman manifested her entrepreneurial spirit early in life with her first micro-business at 8 years old. Years later she went on to establish Renaissance Magazine, The New Spirit of Black Philadelphia. The magazine, which highlighted the good news in the Black community, was published for 10 years with subscribers in almost 30 states. She has utilized her entrepreneurial skills at organizations by starting up new departments or reviving existing ones. She has achieved several firsts as an African-American woman in her professional career in business, workforce development and higher education.
Suzanne has a BS from Syracuse University and an MBA from Drexel University. She works at a local community college helping individuals who are unemployed to receive training for new careers. She serves as a deacon at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Suzanne will be celebrating 36 years of marriage to her husband, Rev. Stephen Holloman, in 2018. They have two daughters.
Suzanne has been a member of several reunion planning committees for the Kountze family, presided over the scholarship committee for a number of years, and chaired the 2008 Kountze Family Reunion.
~~Before retirement, Doug Harris worked as a Community and Public Relations Consultant and Project Manager. During his earlier corporate career he distinguished himself as the highest ranking African American in various divisions of four Fortune 500 corporations. A skilled communicator, he holds a BA in Education from College of New Jersey and an MBA from Fordham University. He and his wife Myrna will celebrate their 40th anniversary in August 2013. He enjoys the affection of a spiritual son, two adoptive granddaughters and two godsons. He is an ordained minister and attended Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he majored in pastoral counseling. He served as co-pastor at the second location of Covenant House of God Church in Philadelphia in the ‘80s. He currently is Associate Pastor of Spiritual Awakening Ministries, Wilmington, DE. He is also a spiritual advisor and pastoral mentor to Kingdom Worship Center of Philadelphia, where he is an instructor in its Biblical Empowerment Institute. Doug and his wife are editors and publishers of a semi-annual family newsletter. They also researched and printed a family directory. Doug has self-published his mother’s memoirs and a short treatise on his grandfather entitled “The Life, Legend and Legacy of John Allan Harris.”
~~Helen Dow Howell Wilkinson was an educator in the Philadelphia School District for over 37 years, retiring in 2005 as the Director of School Support in the District’s North Region. While education was a major part of her life, so was her family, where she enhanced her reunion and its process by helping found the Dow Family Association, serving as National President for eight years and Corresponding Secretary for six. Guided by family bylaws, the Dow Family Association holds annual local and national reunions. Helen and her family members have been featured in magazine articles and television appearances about family reunions. She is currently doing "Finding the Rest of Me" research on her Georgia roots. Helen is happy to share her reunion knowledge, and interacts with ALL members from both sides of her family (the Dows and Young’s from her mother's side, and Tyler-Robinson-Howell and Allen’s from her father's side). Family members regularly communicate across the country via Facebook, the Family website, email, text, and telephone (where they sometimes convene conference calls). Helen also actively participated in researching her husband’s family, the Townes/Wilkinsons with her sister-in-law. Helen is married and has three biological children, an adopted daughter, a daughter-in-law, and four awesome grandchildren. As a charter member of the Family Reunion Institute (FRI) Advisory Board, Helen served as a valuable member of the conference planning committee. She presented at most of the FRI Conferences; worked the registration table for events and conferences; and traveled by invitation to speak on behalf of the FRI. She designed the curriculum and workbook used for FRI national children's conferences, encouraging children and parents to explore their roots/ancestry. The workbook was used for a project with students in several schools in North Philadelphia. Helen also designed a tool to help her grandchildren understand the connection to their ancestry (e.g., why they eat certain foods and have certain traditions), by making a recipe quilt, cooking, and sampling recipes. A participating relative won a James Beard award, known as the Oscar of Food. Helen has ~~worked hard to see the children in her family come together to set collective goals and get to know one another. These were primary goals when the family Association was set-up, and they’re goals she continues to make happen from one generation to the next.
~~Sylvia Ford-George has embraced family reunions since her mother’s passing more than 30 years ago. “My mother was the family nucleus and kept us all in touch and connected. I was really worried about losing touch with everyone and vowed to continue her work, so I created a family newsletter. Each newsletter generated new information about family members, many of whom were not known to each other. This triggered research on our family history, which led to our first reunion. I’m proud to say that our family, the Harpers, celebrated our 25th reunion in 2014." In 1999 the Harper Family wanted to find out what families were planning for turn of the century reunions. So as most people do when they have questions about planning a reunion, I contacted the Mother of Family Reunions, Dr. Ione Vargus. Our scheduled half-hour meeting lasted more than an hour. It went so well that I eventually became a member of the Institute’s Advisory Board, and began assisting board members with the celebrated Family Reunion Conference (last held in 2007). Today I am spearheading the reorganization of the Institute with a goal of developing a succession plan that will see the Institute expand, grow, and eventually reinstate the conferences that were so well-received and loved. The first step is a revamped website to keep the Institute more actively connected with family members who plan reunions, as well as hospitality, tourism, entertainment and amusement organizations that help make reunions exciting, adventurous and fun.
~~Dr. Ione Dugger Vargus is Professor Emerita of Temple University where she broke new ground as the first African-American ever to hold the title of academic dean in Temple’s history. In addition to her roles as Acting Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and Presidential Fellow, Dr. Vargus served as the Dean of the School of Social Administration for 13 years. It was a combination of her graduate studies and experience as a social worker in Chicago and Boston that inspired her lifelong commitment to strengthening families and promoting reunions as a way to enhance identity, self esteem and family values. Guided by that calling, Dr. Vargus founded the Family Reunion Institute at Temple University in 1990. Since then, she has become a nationally acclaimed authority on reunions and their role in sustaining spiritual and cultural vitality in our families and communities. Dr. Vargus has been interviewed or quoted by nearly 400 national and local publications and has appeared on a variety of radio, television and online shows. For 17 years she, and a skillful team of volunteers, produced a national conference on family reunions, drawing hundreds of attendees from all over the country. It is no wonder that she is widely and affectionately known as “The Mother of Family Reunions”.
~~Vallery Kountze has a unique breadth of experience in marketing, sales, distribution, branding and franchise development as well as general management in home entertainment and film marketing. At RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video Vallery was Vice President Marketing, responsible for all strategic marketing, trade and consumer advertising, media and public relations, creative services, brand development, product design and packaging. In the years that followed, she successfully developed and launched two of Columbia Pictures’ first sell through product lines. Vallery was appointed to the newly created position of General Manager of RCA/Columbia's Mass Merchant Division where she established the company's entry to Wal*Mart, Costco and other mass distribution channels including record, book and toy stores. Vallery was the first woman in the industry to be appointed president of a home video company. During her tenure, she initiated a new product development and acquisitions program, developed and launched several other branded lines of merchandise and quadrupled revenue in less than four years. After three years at Time Warner as Vice President, Vallery established her own independent consultancy, Entertainment Marketing Solutions. The consultancy has worked with video divisions of virtually all of the major studios in development and production of original content for standard DVD and Blu-ray formats. Entertainment Marketing Solutions also works with film studios, producers and directors to cultivate and produce marketing assets throughout a film’s pre-production and principal photography phases. Vallery has long maintained a personal commitment to community service and corporate citizenry. She has served as a governing Board Member of AIDS Project Los Angeles; is a founding Board Member of Break the Cycle (a domestic violence prevention and legal intervention program for youth;) and is one of four founders of the Entertainment AIDS Alliance.
~~Sheila Pradia Williams is a strong believer in the power of family reunions to strengthen family bonds and support individual identity and resiliency across generations. Sheila is a part of the Baptiste-Jacquot Family Reunion that has spanned 34 years and the Pradia-Pradier Family Reunion that has a 22 year history. Over the past 20 years she has organized two family reunions in the Washington DC area. In her own words, Sheila has expressed a strong desire to leverage family reunions to address issues important to this unique inter-generational group. “I believe that family reunions can serve an important role in advancing and supporting issues important to family members across generations”.
Sheila is the mother of three young adult children who are actively pursuing their educational and career goals. Being a mother by far has been the most important job she has ever had. She and her husband Chad are “family enthusiasts”, never passing up a chance to connect with family near and far. In her professional life, Sheila is a public health executive in the federal government where she administers $1.55 billion in health workforce grant programs. She has spent the last 21 years dedicated to increasing access to high quality health care for underserved and vulnerable populations throughout the nation, and holds degrees in pharmacy and biochemistry, as well as an MBA and certificate in Business Analytics.
Sheila believes the interactions and communication that occur as a result of family reunions can help us understand our current experiences, contextualize them for deeper reflection and analysis, and provide the background information needed to create blueprints for the future. Her goal is to help FRI expand and fully realize its potential to advance and support the health, economic viability and preservation of families through family reunions.
~~Bill Vargus has devoted 30 years to the TV news business. A nine-time Emmy nominee, Billy V, as he is known in Philly, won the Emmy for Best Sports Anchor for the Mid-Atlantic Region in 2008 and 2009, his final two years at Fox 29. Billy previously worked at six different radio stations in Philly, and has also been a sports anchor at WWOR-TV in New York, WIVB-TV in Buffalo, and NBC-10 in Philly. His first TV anchoring job was at WHYY-TV in Wilmington, Delaware, where he met his wife, Sue Serio, who is now the morning weather anchor on Fox 29. Over the last four years, Billy has been involved in virtually every aspect of news and entertainment. His most recent credits include: