Home > Pittsburgh Urban Media Mourns the Death of Jesse Fife Jr. senior vice president and chief of operations at Manchester Bidwell Corporation

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Pittsburgh Urban Media Mourns the Death of Jesse Fife Jr. senior vice president and chief of operations at Manchester Bidwell Corporation


On December 6, 2010, Jesse W. Fife Jr.(b. July 18, 1950 – d. Dec. 6, 2010) passed after a long battle with a terminal illness.

Jesse was a quiet man with a loud, contagious laugh. As senior vice president and chief of operations at Manchester Bidwell Corporation, he took Bill Strickland’s visions of empowering educational environments and turned them into life-changing realities. He did this from behind the scenes with smiles, encouragement and trust. “Jesse was an amazing man. He built an enduring community in Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania that is now being spread across the United States and, eventually, the world,” says Strickland.

(photo, courtesy of CCAC) 
Jesse’s rise to inspirational community leader started during the 1960s. He was one of fifty students admitted into Project A at the University of Pittsburgh in the summer of 1968. Already a conscientious person at age 18, Jesse was disturbed by social inequities he saw around him. This concern led him to participate in the successful protests against the University who then admitted and hired more African American students and staff while also offering more Black Studies courses.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1972, Jesse worked briefly for Proctor & Gamble and the State of Pennsylvania. He then began a lifelong mission of improving the livelihood, conditions and skills of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised when he joined Bill Strickland at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) and Bidwell Training Center (BTC). Over the years, Jesse helped transform BTC from a civil-rights-era social services organization to the nationally accredited, state-licensed career training institution it is today. “Almost every other social service organization from the ’60s is gone. Jesse made sure BTC was sustainable while keeping the philosophy of positive change at the core of what we do,” says Val Njie, Executive Vice President of Bidwell Training Center.

Uncomfortable in the spotlight, Jesse nonetheless stepped up to the challenge when he became COO of the newly founded parent organization to BTC and MCG, Manchester Bidwell Corporation, in 1999. “Jesse was “Mr. Inside” for MBC, having devoted almost all of his working life to its success, side by side with Bill. Not that Jesse was not well known outside MBC as he has devoted inordinate amounts of time walking the halls of the Capital building in Harrisburg securing funding but as Chief Operating Officer he ensures that everything at MBC runs smoothly and that its mission is carried out. In the process, he has become beloved by employees, directors and countless others for his warm smile and engaging manner.” says Michael Bryson, retired Mellon Financial CFO.
(Bill Strickland & Jesse Fife)
As COO of MBC, Jesse was responsible for the business processes as well as financial projections and strategic goals for MBC and its subsidiaries — BTC, Harbor Gardens Park, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, and the National Center for Arts & Technology. His current effort was directed at replicating the core programming of youth arts education and adult career training in cities across the United States while maintaining the culture of hope present in Pittsburgh. Currently, there are four affiliated centers: San Francisco, CA; Cincinnati, OH; Grand Rapids, MI; and Cleveland, OH.

In addition to his exemplary work at MBC, Jesse also sat on many community boards and committees. He served as a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of City-County Government, is a former member of the board of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation and the City of Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment. Additionally, he served as a board member at the Community College of Allegheny County and as chair of the Workforce Development Committee. A member of the Iota Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Jesse was recently nominated as a University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Alumni.

Jesse is survived by his beloved wife, Valerie Johnson Fife, and children Meloney L. Fife and Jesse W. Fife III (Crystal Gaymon, fiancée). He is the grandfather of Taylor R. Fife. His siblings include Alma R. Holland, Peggy Hightower, Tami Dixon, Kimberly Fife, Michael Fife and the late Michael Tiller. Jesse is the son of the late Jesse W. Fife Sr. and Essie Mae Fife. He was the stepson of the late Hazel Fife.

Friends will be received at the John A. Freyvogel Funeral Home at 4900 Centre Ave at Devonshire in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, Pa. on Wednesday, December 8, 2010 from 2p.m. to 8 p.m.
A memorial service will be held Manchester Bidwell Corporation -Metropolitan Street on Thursday, December 9, 2010 at
3 p.m.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Manchester Bidwell Corporation. Please speak with Steve Burry  in the Development Department at 412-323-4000,  EXT. 267.
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