Eastern Area History
Link Madeline Broaddus
1st Eastern Area Director, Central New Jersey (NJ) Chapter
Theme: Link Women in Today’s World
Link Madeline Broaddus, was elected the first Area Director by twenty-four chapters at the first Area Conference in Philadelphia in 1952. She initiated Area Conference themes by introducing her theme “Link Women in Today’s World.” Link Broaddus served as the first National Recording Secretary from 1949 to 1954 under Link Sarah Scott. She was instrumental in helping to organize additional chapters throughout the Eastern Area, and in the development of the organization into Areas.
Link Prudence Irving
2nd Area Director, Boston (MA) Chapter
Theme: Promoting Dynamic Dimensions
The second Area Director, Link Prudence Irving, operated under the conference theme, “Promoting Dynamic Dimensions.” During her area conference she held a discussion on “Our Link Dollar – Past, Present and Future.” Professionally, she pursued social work on the state and federal levels with a Masters degree in social work from Pittsburgh University. Link Prudence was chair of the 15th National Assembly planning committee.
Link Bessie Hill
3rd Area Director, North Jersey (NJ) Chapter
Link Bessie Hill, former president of the North Jersey, New Jersey Chapter, served as the third Area Director. She developed a plan to benefit the NAACP and the National Urban League. The Links was the first national organization to vote for all its local chapters to become NAACP Life members.
Link Beatrice Butler
4th Area Director, Baltimore (MD) Chapter
Theme: Collective Strength and Organized Action
Link Beatrice Butler, initiated the Daisy Lampkin Award to recognize an outstanding woman in the Area for a significant contribution in projecting the Black image and the heritage of African Americans. Her conference theme was “Collective Strength and Organized Action”. Previously, Link Beatrice served as the first National Recording Secretary from 1949 to 1954 under the first National President and co-founder, Link Sarah Scott.
Link Millicent Bolling
5th Area Director, New Haven (CT) Chapter
Link Millicent Bolling Smith, while serving as chair of the English Department at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Connecticut, was elected the fifth Eastern Area Director at the Area Conference in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for a term from 1969 to 1973. Link Millicent received her Master’s degree at the Breadloaf School of English, and her sixth-year diploma in Administration and Supervision from the University of Bridgeport. Her Administration did a feasibility study on establishing a National Headquarters for The Links, Incorporated.
Link Thelma Ayers Hardiman
6th Area Director, Buffalo (NY) Chapter
Theme: To Serve with Love
Link Thelma Ayers Hardiman was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1920 and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1937. She received her BA degree in Education and Sociology from LeMoyne-Owen College in 1941, her Masters of Public Health from the University of Michigan and married Connecting Link Winton Joy Hardiman in 1943. Link Thelma taught in the Buffalo, New York Public School System for thirty-seven years, and retired as a principal in 1983. She was the recipient of numerous honors and awards in Buffalo, and served, for eighteen years, as the chair of the Ebony Fashion Fair, sponsored by the Buffalo Links Chapter.
Link Thelma deemed her greatest accomplishment, in addition to the normal Area activities, to be the supervision and care of our co-founder, Link Sarah Strickland Scott, giving her the love and friendship that she so aptly deserved. During her tenure, Area Conferences were moved from an annual to a biennial schedule in 1973. Due to this transition of Area Conferences from even to odd years, Link Thelma’s tenure ran from 1973 to 1979. Later, while serving in two positions as Vice President and Chapter Establishment Officer, she chartered the Prince George’s County Maryland Chapter at a site in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, accompanied by the co-founder, Link Sarah Scott, and Area Treasurer, Link Thelma Doby. (Link Mary Douglass, former CAO, The Links Headquarters and Charter Member, Prince George’s County Maryland Chapter, March, 2019). The Area theme was “To Serve with Love”, symbolized with a picture of the Black family dressed in African attire. Link Thelma’s first conference was held in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1977 and her second conference in 1979 was in Arlington, Virginia.
Link Mignon Bolden Johnson
7th Area Director, Arlington (VA) Chapter
Theme: Excellence through Member Participation
Link Mignon Bolden Johnson was a native of Arlington, Virginia. She was a graduate of Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, and Virginia State College where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin. She furthered her education with a Master of Arts degree in Guidance and Counseling from New York University. Her professional career began as a Latin teacher in the Arlington and Fairfax school districts, and, later, at Elliot Junior High School in Washington, DC. She also served as an attendance officer, assistant principal of Evans Junior High School, and principal of Randall Junior High School. She retired from the District of Columbia system in 1973.
Link Mignon was married for fifty-one years to Connecting Link Ernest E. Johnson, and was a past president of the Omega Wives Club. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority for more than fifty years. She attended the Calloway United Methodist Church in Arlington, and was the recipient of many awards and certificates of appreciation for her membership in and service to numerous boards and community organizations in Arlington and Washington, DC.
Link Mignon’s approximately forty-year membership in The Links began as the chartering president of the Arlington, Virginia Chapter in 1966. In 1970, she was the Eastern Area Representative for the 1970 White House Conference. During an interview, Link Mignon believed her major accomplishments were: (1) approving the African Water Wells Project which was conceived and implemented by Link Betty Obiajulu; (2) initiating the office of Sergeant at Arms at Area Conferences, (3) preparing an historical compilation of action profiles of all chapter activities at the Cincinnati Assembly, and (4) initiating the Paragon Award for non-Links who best exemplified and supported any facet of Linkdom. Her first conference was in in 1981 in Niagara Falls, New York, 1981; her second conference held in 1983 was in Norfolk, Virginia. Link Mignon retired to a life of playing bridge, pinochle and scrabble.
Link Rachel Moman Hill
8th Area Director, Delaware Valley (PA) Chapter
Theme: The 3 R’s – Recapturing the Past, Revitalizing the Present, Refocusing for the Future
Link Rachel Moman Hill was from Jackson, Mississippi. She attended Tougaloo College, received a Bachelor’s degree in Home Economics from Cheyney University, and a Masters degree in Education and Early Childhood. She was married to Connecting Link Wansley Hill, and they resided in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.
Link Rachel was a member of several organizations, and served on many boards, such as the Fox Chase Cancer Center and the United Way. She also belonged to the Quettes of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the Kardettes and the Chit Chatters.
Prior to leading the Area, Link Rachel served as Eastern Area Chair of National Trends and Services and Eastern Area Secretary. As Area Director, she separated the Niagara Falls-Buffalo Chapter into two viable chapters to serve in the upstate New York area and installed James River Valley, Virginia Chapter in May, 1983 and Rochester, New York Chapter in May, 1984. Her Area priorities were membership issues, funds for National Headquarters and program excellence. Her first conference in 1985 was in Ocean City, Maryland and her second conference in 1987 was held in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Link Betty King Obiajulu
9th Area Director, Greater New York (NY)
Chapter Theme: The A Team – Renewing Our Heritage – The Black Family
Link Betty King Obiajulu was born in Florida and received her BA and MA degrees from the State University of New York at Albany. While serving a thirty-seven year career as a business educator and guidance counselor, she founded, in her personal life, the Coalition of Black Women’s Organization of Long Island, and the Long Island Council of the United Negro College Fund, where she served as president from 1978 to 1996. She is a member of the Greater New York Chapter of The Links, having served in positions of Secretary, Vice President and President. She is also a Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
Link Betty served as Chair of International Trends and Services under Link Mignon, where she developed the African Water Wells Project, and Vice Director under Link Rachel Moman Hill.
During Link Betty’s Administration, the hosting of Area Conferences by clusters of chapters began in Atlantic City, New Jersey, coordinated by Links Margurite Mazique, Capital City Chapter and Alethia Spraggins, Washington, DC Chapter, with almost one thousand registrants – Links, Connecting Links, Heir-o-Links and guests.
As Area Director, she began the Eastern Area Scholarship Fund by retaining a sum of $20,000 in the Area treasury at the end of her term. She established the Hardiman-Johnson Award for outstanding umbrella projects, and developed procedures for chapter responsibilities for hosting Area suites during Conferences.
Link Betty organized four clusters of chapters for hosting conferences – BERNSJ, Tidewater, Greater Philadelphia Keystone and Central Virginia. She also represented The Links at the National Council of Women of the United States from 1979 to 1988. She established the Area newsletter, Linkage; installed six chapters – Erie County (PA), Greater Hudson Valley (NY), Patapsco River (MD), Metro-Manhattan (NY), Southside (VA) and Frankfort, Germany (May, 1990); continued the Paragon Award to any non-Link(s) who best exemplified and supported any facet of Linkdom; oversaw two of the largest Area Conferences – 1989, Atlantic City, NJ, 1000 attendees, and 1991, Stamford, CT, over 700 attendees; developed chapter responsibility procedures for Area suites during conferences. Link Betty’s first conference in 1989 was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey and her second conference in 1991 in Stamford, Connecticut.
Link Betty later served as National Co-Chair of Chapter Establishment. She is married to Connecting Link Attah-jundwe Obiajulu, and enjoys traveling, reading and cooking meals for the elderly during her retirement years.
Link Barbara Dixon Simpkins
10th Area Director, Prince George’s County (MD) Chapter
Theme: Strengthening the Black Family through Friendship, Love and Service” (1993) and “Linkages of Service in Friendship and Love” (1995)
Link Barbara Dixon Simpkins, Ed.D. began her Links experience as the organizer and chartering president of the Prince George’s County Maryland Chapter in 1979.
A native of Pensacola, Florida, she attended Cascadilla College Preparatory School in Ithaca, New York and graduated from Washington High School at age fifteen, with honors. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida A & M, a Master of Science degree from Temple University, and an Ed.D. degree from NOVA Southeastern University. She began her career as a vocal music educator in Pensacola, Florida and Washington, DC.
Link Barbara served as Eastern Area Secretary from 1987 to 1991, ascending to the position of Area Director in 1991. In this position, she accompanied a delegation to South Africa to break ground for what led to construction of forty-two Links’ IFESH Schools. She composed the Area Conference theme song; installed three chapters – Jamestown (NY), Old Dominion (VA) and Providence (RI); broke ground in South Africa for LINKS/IFESH schools; and sponsored the South African Links Chapter. Her first conference in 1993 was held in Richmond, Virginia, and her second conference in 1995 was held in East Rutherford (Meadowlands), New Jersey.
Link Barbara served as National Membership Chair and Chapter Establishment Chair, and co-authored the Links’ Signature Program – “Links to Success: Children Achieving Excellence.” She was later appointed National Vice President in August 1995.
Her major accomplishment was becoming the twelfth National President in July 1998. Link Barbara was the mother of two sons, and was a writer, a gourmet cook and a gardener who enjoyed traveling, interior decorating and entertaining friends.
Link Cecelia Brown Henderson
11th Area Director, Buffalo (NY) Chapter
Theme: Serve Up Success: Build Linkages, Empower the Black Family
Link Cecelia Brown Henderson a native of Hampton, Virginia, married Connecting Link Dr. Leon Henderson, and re-located to Buffalo, New York where she received Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Buffalo. She retired from the Buffalo Board of Education after thirty-four years of work in Prevention Crises and Substance Abuse. Link Cecelia has a family of three children and several grandchildren.
Link “CeCe”, as she is affectionately called, has been an active member of the Buffalo Chapter over forty years, holding positions of chapter secretary and chair of many committees. At the Area level, she chaired program workshops and a leadership summit, and served as Vice Director.
As the eleventh Area Director, she created the 50th Anniversary Quilt; produced the first “Video of Success: Some Good Each Day”; identified and selected the site for the Eastern Area Archives and Repository; held a retreat, on site, with the Frankfurt, Germany Chapter and the Eastern Area Executive Committee; funded the building of three Links/IFESH schools in South Africa; established the position of Legacy Consultant; installed four chapters - Greater Queens (NY) 1996, Charlottesville (VA) 1998, Eastern Shore (NY) 1998 and Commonwealth (VA) 1998; distributed the Eastern Area’s ‘Serving Up Success’ Newsletter to all Area Links; held leadership summits for chapters in 1995 & 1997; traveled to South Africa to distribute supplies to children in the Education Across the Miles project; held program workshops and town meetings at Area Conferences; developed and implemented a “Friendship Communication Chain” for chapter information delivery; and presented Heart Power Kits, an educational health and wellness curriculum, to the school systems of Philadelphia and New York City.
The Eastern Area was the first winner of the Project Walking Fete Art Contest. Her first conference in 1997 was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and her second conference in 1999 was held in New York, New York. Link Cecelia was elected National Recording Secretary at the 2002 Assembly in Chicago. She is a member of New Hope Baptist Church, has been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated over fifty years, and is the recipient of numerous awards and commendations.
Link Alethia L. Spraggins
12th Area Director, Washington (DC)
Chapter Theme: Building a Foundation for the Future through Leadership, Labor and Love
Link Alethia L. Spraggins, Ph.D. was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Richmond, Virginia, where she received a BS degree from Virginia Union University. She received a Masters degree in Embryology from Howard University and a Ph.D. from the Union Institute and University in Educational Administration and Leadership.
While serving as the twelfth Area Director, her Administration crossed over the New Millennium into the 21st Century. She established divisional leadership with three Peer Assisting Leaders (PALs) to expedite materials and services to chapters; set up the Area website-www.eastlinks.org; obtained a $5,000.00 grant from the District of Columbia government for the C-L-O-N-E-S Project (using Connecting Links to mentor African American boys ages nine to eleven at Birney Elementary School, DC Public School System; Connecting Links Offering New Experiences to Sons); funded five $3,000.00 grants to enhance chapter programs; installed the Eastern Area Archives and Repository at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia that had been identified by the previous Administration; travelled to South Africa to visit the eighteen schools funded by the Area; held the first Legacy workshop at the 36th Area Conference; grouped seventy-five chapters into twelve clusters for Conference hosting; developed a handbook on Eastern Area Directors - Living Treasures: Thirty Years of Eastern Area Stars, 1973 to 2003; placed life-sized statues of Links founders, Margaret Hawkins and Sarah Scott, in the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland; composed the Eastern Area Closing Hymn. Her first conference in 2001 was held in Buffalo, New York and her second conference in 2003 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Link Alethia is the daughter of Link Alice Grant Spraggins, mother of two daughters and one son, and grandmother of three. She enjoys traveling and playing cards, and holds life membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and The Society, Incorporated (5th National President).
Link Joyce C. Lowe
13th Area Director, Boston (MA) Chapter
Theme: We Are the Power of Many…We Will Light the Way!!! (2005); We Are the Power of Many…We can, We will, We must Light the Way to Touch Tomorrow Today (2007)
Link Joyce C. Lowe is a Washington, DC native who received her BS degree in chemistry from Howard University. She began her Links membership in New Jersey where she was employed by a computer firm, and later, transferred her membership to the Boston Chapter where she served as Area Vice Director.
As the thirteenth Eastern Area Director, she prepared and distributed Mama kits to Africa (sanitizing kits for pregnant women); partnered with Roche Pharmaceuticals and African American transplant surgeons in the Eastern Area to advance organ and tissue donations in our communities; collaborated, in New York City in January, 2004, with Keeling Wainright Associates, Inc., producers of the National Black Fine Arts Show; established two centers for African American Life and History at Hampton University and Norfolk State University, donating over a thousand books and DVD’s from Eastern Area Chapters; received a Literary Award for the presentation of “The Price of Freedom” by the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers in November, 2006; increased the use of umbrella projects; implemented the chapter advocacy program hotline for tactical support to chapter presidents on critical matters (boundary and intake issues); worked toward endowment with HBCU’s in the Eastern Area; published the Eastern Area Beacon newsletter; had Kemba Smith present in a luncheon forum for chapter presidents; sponsored a Poster Art Contest which was later adopted as a National Program.
The Area themes were ”We Are the Power of Many…We Will Light the Way!!!” (2005) and “We Are the Power of Many…We can, We will, We must Light the Way to Touch Tomorrow Today” (2007), using the lighthouse as her Area symbol. Her first conference in 2005 was held in Norfolk, Virginia and her second conference in 2007 was held in Crystal City, Virginia.
Link Bishetta D. Merritt
14th Area Director, Washington (DC) Chapter
Theme: Circle of Friends
Link Bishetta D. Merritt, Ph.D. is a native of Danville, Virginia. She received her B.A. degree in Dramatics and Speech from Fisk University and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Communications from The Ohio State University. Her mother, the late Link Willette T. Merritt, a Platinum Member, organized the Danville Chapter of The Links and Jack and Jill.
Link Bishetta developed the dental health program, Links to Oral Health (kick-off at Seattle National Assembly with Congressman Elijah Cummings as the speaker); continued the “Let’s Go Green in the East” poster art contest from the previous Administration; prepared tool kits for Eastern Area schools in South Africa, and developed an international pen-pal program with eighteen Eastern Area schools in South Africa; used completed surveys on the impact of membership in the “sandwich generation” on leadership in the Eastern Area to create workshops at the Area Conference; developed partnerships with MoMA, National Dental Assoc., AARP, National Black Nurses’ Assoc., DC Teachers Federal Credit Union, Odyssey Media, MEDCO and Colgate for program monies and in-kind services; created a video on the first forty chapters; commissioned artists from the Blue Ridge-Piedmont Cluster to create pieces of art to donate to the Harrison Museum in Roanoke, VA, an African-American Museum.
The Eastern Area received fourteen program awards at the Seattle and Detroit National Assemblies. Prior to this position, Link Merritt served on the National level as Chair of the Nominating Committee (1996-2000), and Chair of Services to Youth, Eastern Area, 2000 to 2003.Her first conference in 2009 was held in Roanoke, Virginia, and her second conference in 2011 was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Link Bishetta has always served on university faculties, beginning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then Shaw University, and finally, Howard University where she retired after thirty-three years of service. She is the recipient of many awards, especially Professor of the Year (Shaw University; School of Communications, Howard University). She enjoys traveling, theater, viewing films and shopping, is an elder at Northeastern Presbyterian Church, and a 51-year member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Link Dianne Smith Hardison
15th Area Director, Old Dominion (VA) Chapter
Theme: Leveraging the Legacy of Friendship and Service
Link Dianne Smith Hardison is a native Washingtonian and fifth generation land owner in Fairfax County, Virginia. She grew up in McLean, Virginia, graduating from Langley High School. She received her Bachelor’s degree in French from Virginia State College, her Master’s degree in Third-world Francophone History from the University of Dayton, and completed all course work for her doctorate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Link Dianne has held many leadership positions in universities and government, and used her talents to start her own consulting company, The Hardison Group, LLC in 2003, servicing clients like the US Defense Department and the Pentagon.
She chartered three chapters-Greater Bronx (NY) 2014, Greater Rappahannock (VA) 2014 and Patuxent River (MD) 2014; developed the Young Master Writers’ Program and the Mental Health Initiative (became a National Initiative in 2015); developed a partnership with the American Cancer Society; developed an Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Eastern Area Green Book (Link entrepreneurs providing goods and services to other Links chapters); produced a quarterly White Rose Chronicles newsletter; created a “Leveraging the Legacy Award”, acknowledging service to the organization (less than twenty five years of service, and more than twenty five years of service, but not up to forty years); continued the Oral Health Initiative which became a National Initiative in 2014. Her first conference in 2013 was held in Boston, Massachusetts and her second conference in 2015 was held in Foxwoods, Connecticut, 2015. Link Dianne collects fine art and loves to travel.
Link Natalie H. Fant
16th Area Director, Reston (VA) Chapter
Theme: United by Our Friendship and Our Commitment to Service Our Communities
Link Natalie H. Fant is an Heir-o-Link, daughter of Platinum Member Link Isabelle Fant, and granddaughter of Link Hilda Porter (Brooklyn Chapter). She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Woodbridge, Virginia at age 14. Link Natalie joined the Arlington Links Chapter in 1983, and later transferred to the Reston, Virginia Chapter.
Link Natalie installed a chapter of British citizens in London, England and a chapter in Central Massachusetts, both during the spring of 2018, bringing the total of chapters in the East to seventy-eight. The most significant trend during her Administration was the expanded implementation of the Service Delivery Model (SDM) and umbrella programming at the Area level to set an example for the chapters. The most significant service was the umbrella program, the Inaugural Health Equity Ambassadors Mission (HEA), which was delivered in Nassau, The Bahamas, in March 2017, using the SDM. The Links, Incorporated adopted two Eastern Area programs at the National level - the Health Equity Ambassadors Program (HEA) and the Young Master Writers Program (YMWP). Her first conference in 2017 was held in Richmond, Virginia, and her second conference in 2019 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Link Shuana Tucker-Sims
17th Area Director, Fairfield County (CT) Chapter
Theme: Embracing our Legacy; Cultivating our Future
Link Shuana Tucker-Sims was elected the seventeenth Eastern Area Director at the Area Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey on April 26, 2019. Her Area theme is ”Embracing our Legacy; Cultivating our Future.” Her goals are (1) Wellness: Mind, Body and Spirit of each member; (2) Transformational Programs & Partnerships; (3) Global Leadership Development; (4) Intergenerational Appointments & Next Generation Thought Leaders; and (5) Enhanced Communications.
A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Link Shuana obtained a BS degree from Xavier University of Louisiana, an MPA from Louisiana State University, and a Ph.D. from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her career began in Washington, DC with the U.S. Department of Education, and the Waterbury and Danbury Public School Systems, and continued to her current position of Chief Talent Officer, New Britain Public Schools in Connecticut. She has obtained certifications in Administration and Supervision and Superintendent of Schools. She has received honors from the State of Connecticut NAACP (One of the 50 Most Influential Blacks in CT), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (Salute to Excellence Award), National Congress of Black Women, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (Lifetime Community Service Award).
Link Shuana held positions of President, Vice President, Program Coordinator, Recording Secretary and facet chair at the chapter level. At the Area level, she was elected as Eastern Area Secretary in 2013 and Vice Director in 2015 and 2017. She also served as the National Assistant Director of Services to Youth. She is a Life Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, member of The Girlfriends, Incorporated (National Librarian/Historian) and Associate member of Jack & Jill of America, Incorporated. She enjoys traveling, Genealogy Research, cooking and spending time with family and friends.