Summa Health executive and local pastor Robert DeJournett will be the new vice president for opportunity and inclusion at the Greater Akron Chamber starting next month.
The chamber announced the hiring Friday and said the position is a direct result of the Elevate Greater Akron economic development program that involves Akron, Summit County, the chamber and the GAR Foundation. A key goal of the program is to ensure the region’s minority population is included in economic opportunities.
DeJournett will spearhead the work of Elevate Greater Akron involving strategies for economic inclusion and opportunity, the chamber said. He will concentrate on driving a focus within the business community on economic inclusion.
The chamber said DeJournett has 24 years of experience in diversity and inclusion, a history of committed civic leadership engagement and deep ties within the Akron community.
“I am excited to have Robert stepping into this role on our team to lead on what is some of the most important new work at the chamber to support the growth and success of minority-owned companies and to drive a focus on elevating the existing people and talent in the neighborhoods and communities of Greater Akron that our employers need to be successful,” said Steve Millard, chamber president and CEO.
“Creating this role is just the first step to driving engagement by the community’s business leadership who have recently committed to an explicit and intentional focus of the board on inclusion as a part of the chamber’s work, ” said Marc Merklin, chamber chair and managing partner, Brouse McDowell.
DeJournett currently is Summa Health’s director of community relations and diversity. He is an active community leader and pastor of St. Ashworth Temple Church of God In Christ. DeJournett also is board president of Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority, chair of the Leadership Akron Alumni Association and board chair of the Akron chapter of the American Heart Association.
DeJournett will start his job at the chamber in June and said he sees this opportunity as a chance to capitalize on a career of experiences working to improve the success of the region.
"I am excited to be an integral part of the ongoing work being done throughout the community around being intentional in identifying and implementing inclusive strategies to ensure our community is a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive,” he said in a prepared statement. "This role will allow for me to continue some of the work I have been doing at Summa, but with an increase in scope and on a broader scale."
Dr. Cliff Deveny, president and chief executive of Summa Health, said DeJournett has been a key leader at Summa in both inclusion and community outreach.
“His leadership has made a significant difference here. While it is difficult to lose someone who has done so much for more than 30 years, his passion to lead on this issue is clearly a calling for him,” Deveny said.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said the research that came out of Elevate Greater Akron showed significant gaps in local wages and employment between African Americans and the majority population.
“This is an unacceptable, generational disparity that has impacted our entire community for decades, and Robert is uniquely qualified to help us turn the tide,” Horrigan said. “The city has made a long-term commitment to financially support Robert and the chamber in achieving our goals around expanding economic opportunity for all people.”
Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro said she expects DeJournett will hit the ground running in his new role.
“Expectations are high as we drive this work, but we also need to be realistic about the long-term commitment it will take to position Greater Akron as one of the country’s most inclusive communities,” she said.