Ernest Lee Sullivan
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CareerFocus: 1995 Eagle Awards

Focus:Eagle Awards Ernest L. Sullivan's impressive career started at a tender age, when he became "Mayor" of his elementary school.

"Growing up in public housing and poverty, sometimes your confidence level and drive are impacted by not receiving encouragement and praise needed by all human beings," he says. "When I was in the fifth grade, the Mayor of Columbus announced that there would be a "Mayor" elected by students and teachers at each elementary school. This individual would work with the principal and administration as a student representative."

His mother encouraged Sullivan to run, and with the slogan, "From North, South, East to West, ELS is the Best," he was elected.

"It was here that I realized that I could be somebody and that hard work and effort could pay off," he says. "This event shaped the person I am today."

Sullivan has evolved from "Mayor" to vice president of executive selection and employment where he now elects the best and brightest for positions in Bank One's Corporate Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

"My professional key to success is to be results focused," he says. "It is so easy to get side-tracked with personalities and politics. I have found that if you focus on desired outcomes and achieve them, progress usually occurs personally and professionally."

Being in charge of staffing, Sullivan must sometimes "focus" on the difficult problems of relocation and job loss. This year, Bank One decided to consolidate some of its operations.

"In addition to my regular duties, I spent extra time working on the project team to ensure that all displaced employees are treated fairly and that they receive first priority job consideration," Sullivan says.

This dedication and energy given to not just the company but the people within the company, is what makes Sullivan special, according to William Flowers, assistant vice president of Human Resources, Bank One.

"Some people shy away from responsibility and the responsibility that comes with responsibility," Flowers says. "(Sullivan) flourishes in it. He definately stands out as an individual that doesn't just do an 8 to 5."

Making that extra effort, Sullivan has also made a difference as chairperson for the bank's Cultural Exhange Group. This group of Bank One minority professionals meets in forums each month to assist the bank in its diversity initiatives. They assist in the development of diversity training programs and work to oincrease the sensitivity and awareness of issues and concerns that may be significant to minority professionals. This is an important issue for Sullivan who feels professionally, he has tried to focus on results, while some have focused on his minority status.

"I am sure that there have been times along the way where progress has been slower because of being a minority, but I will say that there were times being a minority helped me to get some experience that I may not have gotten otherwise," he says.

"The scales have not always been balanced but my philosophy is to try to have an impact on what I control and not spend too much time worrying about the factors that are 'out of my reach."

Within reach have been efforts to give young people in the community education and jobs. As president of Jobs For Columbus Graduates Program, Sullivan assists over 500 at-risk high school seniors in completing their education and securing employment opportunities.

When he became president in 1994, the board was inactive and not represented by all the necessary corporations. Sullivan was able to attract several major corporations back to the board and get the funding they needed. For this work, he was selected "Board Partner" of the year by the Board of Education.

"Reaching out with a helping hand is the key to a successful life," he says. "There can never be enough Black professionals involved in youth development."

According to Flowers, Sullivan's "helping hand" means lending an ear no matter the situation.

"I've seen young individuals come to him for guidance at inappropriate times," Flowers says. "But he doesn't mind. He addresses folks and gives them the time that they need."

Sullivan's ability to reach out to others makes him a business success also.

"He has the ability to get people to share in his vision," Flowers explains. "They like him. They are willing to go that extra mile."

Sullivan feels he can offer his time and wisdom to others because of his own success, won through hard work and personal growth.

"I will say that the only possible obstacle was being one of the 'trail blazers' in the Bank One organization," he says. "This taught me the need for patience and understanding. It also taught me the importance of cooperation and how cooperation, as opposed to having a 'chip', can be the vehicle through which opportunities are broadened."

Focus:Eagle Awards

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