Johnson named new chairman of United Way of Rhode Island board of directors

DOLPH JOHNSON, executive vice president and chief global human resources officer for Pawtucket-based toymaker Hasbro Inc., was recently named the new chairperson for the United Way of Rhode Island’s board of directors. He succeeds Michele Lederberg, executive vice president, chief legal officer and chief administrative officer for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

What drove you to get involved with the United Way of Rhode Island? Both my desire and decision to become involved with United Way of Rhode Island came naturally. I feel that the organization’s mission is an extension of the purpose we hold dear at Hasbro, “to make the world a better place for children and families.” The inequities in our state are clear and I believe United Way is uniquely positioned to address the root causes of issues in order to create the change we need. I am drawn to that call to action, and to the incredible people of United Way who share this passion to serve.

What goals do you hope to achieve for the organization? First and foremost, I’m eager to support [CEO and President] Cortney Nicolato and the exceptional team she’s built. I am inspired by Cortney’s vision and the immense capability of the team focused on executing that vision. I also want to serve as encouragement to our board to take on an even deeper level of engagement; this work requires us all to play a bigger role. And I want to ensure United Way connects with the next generation of supporters. It’s incredibly important to connect with this group so they can light the path for future generations.

What areas of the community do you feel the United Way needs to focus on in the upcoming year? Our Black and brown communities continue to experience disproportionate inequities on many fronts. But I believe strongly that housing and education must remain our most critical areas of focus. It is hard to envision a good quality of life without first having a safe, affordable home to go to each night. And much of that quality of life is built upon a foundation that begins with education. I think we’re all aware of the challenges our kids face to learn today and that the pandemic exacerbated the inequities we see. So much of our future is grounded in ensuring everyone has equal access to opportunities, especially housing and education.

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What new initiatives at the United Way do you hope to be directly involved with? It’s not a new area, but one where I have tremendous passion and that is closing the educational inequity gap. My sister is a high school principal, and we talk often about outcomes for kids who lack access to the internet or to computers. I cannot imagine the challenges children faced learning virtually during the pandemic, but to do it without the technology they needed was truly impossible. In this digital age, we must do everything in our power to ensure every Rhode Island child has this access. These kids are our future, and I can’t think of a place where my time in this role would be better invested.

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