Thursday, May 1, 2003

Obituary: Calvin Conliffe

GE engineer made mark on school board

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mr. Conliffe

MONTGOMERY - Calvin Hughes Conliffe, the first black Cincinnati school board member and a retired manager of commercial engine advanced technologies for GE Aircraft Engines, died Sunday after a long illness.

The Montgomery resident was 76.

"My father felt a great sense of responsibility to his fellow man," said his daughter, Kimberly Stephens of Bethesda, Md. "He'd always say, 'The way you thank me is to help someone else.'"

The mechanical engineer started at General Electric two months after graduating magna cum laude from Howard University in 1951. He is credited with developing several major innovations in aircraft engine design.

He also spent 1970-74 as a consultant for the GE Foundation in New York and Connecticut, and created the Educators in Industry program.

He retired in 1991 and earned a place in the GE Propulsion Hall of Fame in 1995. He also was one of the first to receive the Reginald H. Jones Distinguished Service Award.

Mr. Conliffe was elected to Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education in 1963.

"Opportunities for blacks were still quite limited, and to achieve what Calvin achieved demonstrated a person who had enormous determination, who did not allow the constraints of segregation to constrain and affect him," said retired federal Judge Nathaniel Jones, who was a close friend.

"He was deeply interested in ending disparities and expanding opportunities because he knew that was the path to success."

Mr. Conliffe also served on the board for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and was co-chairman of the building committee.

He was a board member for National Conference for Community and Justice, which honored him with a lifetime achievement award in 1997.

He had board memberships for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, WCET-TV, Episcopal Retirement Homes and the Episcopal Diocesan Council of Southern Ohio.

"He wanted to inspire others and help others," his daughter said.

At age 18, after graduating from Dunbar High School in Washington, Mr. Conliffe joined the Army Air Corps.

He received honorary doctorates from Cincinnati Technical College and the College of Mount St. Joseph, as well as a national distinguished alumni award from Howard University. He was a member of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Pi Phi.

Mr. Conliffe is also survived by Lucille, his wife of 54 years; son Darryl of Farmington Hills, Mich.; daughter Adrienne James of Mason; brothers McGregor of Washington and Wharton of West Chester; sister Madelon Brown of Atlanta; and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. today at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, 10345 Montgomery Road, Montgomery. Funeral service will be 10 a.m. Friday at the church. Interment will be at Spring Grove Cemetery, Lakeside Mausoleum.

Memorials: Calvin H. Conliffe Endowed Scholarship Fund of Howard University, 2225 Georgia Ave. N.W., Suite 627, Washington, D.C. 20059.


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