To say this lady wears many hats is an understatement.
The Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall-Blake is the president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and vice president of Community Affairs for Independence Blue Cross (IBC).
She is also the mother of three children: Julian, Chawnda and Jamila; and grandmother of Jamile. One can sense the feeling of pride as she notes all of her children attended an historically Black college, i.e. Howard, Lincoln, Spelman and Xavier — and are successful in their respective careers.
Marshall-Blake serves as associate minister at Vine Memorial Baptist Church and spiritual chief officer at IBC where, from time to time, she has been called on to provide spiritual support for employees experiencing personal challenges and/or when an employee dies.
Additionally, this lady serves as president of the Omega Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The group is a Pan-Hellenic organization with approximately 400 members. This is a position she has held since last fall.
The chapter has initiated the Emerging Youth Leaders program focusing on leadership by design, and on purpose, through the Bailey Arrington Leadership Institute.
In her role with the IBC foundation, her philosophy is to take the social to the philanthropic. The foundation serves Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties.
Marshall-Blake believes it important to see where the clinics are and to interact with the staff and clients. To that end, she has visited all 32 clinics. The foundation’s six-member board meets twice a year. Launched in 2011 with a $10 million budget, the foundation has awarded $3.25 million to date. She loves her job and views it as her dream job. She’s worked at IBC for 22 years and served on the board of directors at one point. Before this position, she worked at the Philadelphia Gas Works for 14 years.
Literally, a lady of many hats, she’s known for the stylish hats that she wears every day. Being ladylike is a trait she patterned after her grandmother and mother.
“It’s important for young girls to see ladies as role models and to be able to see themselves unfold and learn to have love for themselves — as referenced in Dr. Mona Lake’s poem ‘Getting Ready to Unfold,’” Marshall-Blake said.
This tastefully dressed businesswoman appreciates hearing remarks of admiration from passers-by as she moves from activity to activity in Center City.
Her wardrobe is developed from selections delivered by Fred Lee, a deacon at her church who provides this service for many of the female congregation members.
While many view her as a fashionista, she describes herself as a classic dresser. However, she always makes a special effort to seek out a unique pair of earrings from a jeweler in New York during Pennsylvania Society Weekend.
A self-proclaimed “typical” middle child of five children (one brother is deceased), she and her siblings were expected to do well, go to school and “don’t go out acting a fool.”
Her father was a master plumber and handyman, while her mother stayed home to raise the children. When she was a baby, she was nicknamed “Bootsy” because she was small enough to fit inside her father’s fishing boot.
One of her fondest childhood memories is of Friday nights eating Chinese shrimp dinner from Ms. Punchey’s.
The family didn’t vacation much, however, a visit to Atlantic City or Wildwood for the day and a trip to Ocean City for the weekend were special treats.
She reflects fondly on neighborhood entrepreneurs “Mr. Otis” and “Miss Sadie” and she feels good to still know most of the families on the street on which she was raised and where her 84-year-old mother still resides. She has a special smile as she shares that she talks with her mother every day, no matter where she is, in or out of the country, and does her laundry and performs other duties that a daughter does for her mother.
Always mindful that “God never blinks” Marshall-Blake was raised to always be grateful for whatever you have and to treat everyone with the dignity they deserve.
She attended Brooks Elementary and was in the first group of bused students (to Mitchell Elementary on Kingsessing Avenue) and Overbrook High School. She has a master of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a master of divinity degree from Palmer Theological Seminary (she was ordained on July 21, 2004) and an honorary doctorate of humanities from Albright College in Reading, Pa.
Marshall-Blake sleeps only about 4 to 5 hours daily and it’s ok with her.
She’s able to balance her extremely busy business, civic and personal life because she’s organized.
She noted that she and her father, who was exceptionally organized, would be awake moving through the home and doing things while the rest of the family was still sleeping.
Mentors of this extremely busy businesswoman include Delores Brisbon, Rev. Dorothy Watson Tatum, Anne Wrice Mullin, Chris Cashman, Dan Hilferty, Bruce Crawley and Councilwoman Augusta A. Clark. She gives back by mentoring several young people within and outside of the company. The group consists of Ayana Moses, who is getting married in Ghana and has invited Marshall-Blake to participate in the ceremony), Joanne Ferguson, Shalimar Blakeley, Bridgette Daniels and Marcus Allen.
The list of role models includes her mother, first lady Michelle Obama, her pastor, the Rev. James Allen, and her good friends, the Rev. Sandra Reed and Jan Gillespie.
These three words characterize this lady executive.
Moving from meeting to meeting, and activity to event, she logs many hours on a daily basis changing from corporate hat to community member to board member to mother and friend. After knowing her for a while, many of her business associates affectionately call her “Reenie.”
The recipient of numerous awards, she is quite proud to have been acknowledged by the Wynnefield Presbyterian Church, Women of Faith, the League of Women Voters with its Civil Leadership Award, BEBASHI, the Tribune’s Most Influential list, the American Jewish Committee. She also received the G. Fred DiBona Leadership Award, the highest award given by Independence Blue Cross.
An avid reader, she enjoys material from a variety of genres and quotes from them with ease. Some of her favorite books are: the Bible; “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boys Story of His Trip to Heaven,” Todd Blupo, et al; “Great Day Every Day: Navigating Life’s Challenges with Promise and Purpose” (Max Lucado) and Dennis Kimbro’s “What Keeps Me Standing: Letters From Black Grandmothers on Peace, Hope and Inspiration.”
With respect to leadership style she refers to “Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela.” This philosophy suggests that one does not have to be in front to lead; rather, one can lead from behind using one’s influence, bench strength and by supporting others — “it’s not always about a title,” she notes.
Marshall-Blake is excited simply about life every day and the possibilities of each new day. While much of what she does is in the public realm, most wouldn’t know that she has run the IBC Broad Street Run twice (and that’s the limit she says while smiling). She also loves to cook, and is a great cook, which can be attested to by anyone who has had the pleasure of dining on a meal she has prepared.
Other community activities include serving on the boards of the Philadelphia Urban League, the Urban Affairs Coalition, the Black Women’s Health Alliance and the IBC Safety Advisory Commission. She also finds time to be affiliated with 2000 African American Women, the Community College of Philadelphia and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
Cultural heroes and “sheroes” include Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “If they hadn’t done what they did, we wouldn’t be here to do what we are doing,” Marshall-Blake said.
Living legends who complete her list include General Colin Powell, President Barack Obama, and Radio One founder Cathy Hughes.
“Our young people need to be able to see them and learn how they are able to do what they do,” she said.
Her office, with a large picture window looking out over the city, is that of a busy woman. One gets a sense of who she is and what her interests are from the books, artifacts and other materials that are displayed throughout the space.
Family photos, AKA paraphernalia, an African-American doll with a small bag of cotton (‘lest we forget’), a photo of President Barack Obama, numerous awards, a bookcase full of books and other mementos. Her degrees adorn her office walls and there is a coffee table near the cushiony couch near the entrance to her office that holds some of her favorite books.
“The key to my success is my faith walk,” Marshall-Blake said. “I believe that as I succeed, you succeed. I love my job. When I leave at the end of the day, I feel fulfilled. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish at IBC. Those of us who are in these positions of leadership are the exception; we should be the rule, and young people should be able to see African Americans in different leadership roles.”