OSBORNE, ERNEST Ernest L. Osborne died on Thursday, May 1, 2014, at his home in Heritage Hills, Somers, New York, after a lengthy illness. He was 81 years old and a resident of Somers for 22 years. Ernie was born in Harlem, New York, the son of Ernest L. and Alma Chatman Osborne. He played many distinguished roles in public service, holding major positions of importance and influence. He was a visionary who helped renew urban neighborhoods, directed philanthropic organizations and foundations, exerted leadership in educational and social services, assisted business, government and community organizations, and worked with organizations devoted to solving problems and affecting social change. Ernie pursued three fundamental goals that exemplified his life-long commitment to give back to the community: to help people to live with dignity at work, in their homes and in our country. Even as a teenager, he and his friends pulled together a series of dances for the youth in his Harlem neighborhood, helping to provide a healthy environment where youngsters could meet and mingle, out of harm’s way. Ernie served as a senior executive at Yale University, where President Kingman Brewster appointed him Director of the Yale Council on Community Affairs. President Brewster became an important mentor and guiding force for Ernie, giving him the confidence to pave new professional paths. Surrounding Yale were neighborhoods characterized by deep poverty and urban decay. Middle-class communities bordered the areas as well. Working initially for the New Haven Redevelopment Agency and then for Yale, Ernie brought many different community factions together to help rejuvenate New Haven’s inner-city neighborhoods and gain recognition for the city by the Federal government and urban planners as one of the premier urban renewal programs in the nation. In another career milestone, Ernie was appointed Executive Director of the Sachem Fund, a private family foundation focused on supporting cutting-edge organizations. Under his trailblazing leadership, Sachem supported organizations and causes that addressed social, economic and environmental issues, as well as education, women’s rights, regional planning, health and housing advocacy. His most important contribution as head of the Sachem Fund was to provide funding to establish the first community-based Hospice initiative in the U.S., located in Branford, Connecticut. He was only the second African American invited to become a member of the Council of Foundations. Ernie was also one of the founders of the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), which celebrated its 40th anniversary several years ago. During the administration of President Jimmy Carter, Ernie was appointed Deputy Undersecretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in what is now the Department of Health and Human Services. He was an active member of the agency team that worked with Congress to enact regulations ensuring quality day care regulations for infants and children in homes, schools and institutions. After visiting the Thailand Refugee Resettlement Camps, he became a driving force within HHS to elevate to the Office of the Secretary, the responsibility of refugee resettlement for Southeast Asian refugees, which led to an historic and successful program. Ernie also held senior positions at Travelers, in the Koch administration in New York City, and SEEDCO. His “give back to the community” philosophy brought many opportunities to serve in volunteer roles. He was president of At Home in Somers, a member of the board of directors of the Katonah Museum of Art, and a trustee of more than twenty other non-profit organizations over the course of his illustrious career. Ernie was the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Outstanding Service Award from the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He was the first person named Philanthropist of the Year by the Connecticut Chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives. Ernie was predeceased by his son, Warren, and his first wife, Edith Elizabeth Kimbro. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Miller Osborne; his sister, Christine Hammond (R. Vincent); his sisters-in-law, Kay Miller and Marilyn Ward; his daughter, Elizabeth Osborne; his stepchildren, Richard Brinser (Monica), Teresa Clas (Victor del Pozzo), Susan Pelletier (Claude) and Steven Brinser (Sally); 11 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren; a host of nieces, nephews and cousins; and a multitude of friends. A memorial service will be held in the near future. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Ernest Osborne’s name to Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545-0302; or to Hospice and Palliative Care of Westchester, 311 North Street, White Plains, NY 10605.
Published by The New Haven Register from May 5 to May 6, 2014.