Chair, America's Promise Alliance

Alma J. Powell is one of the nation’s most longstanding advocates for children and youth. A successful author and speaker, Mrs. Powell has helped advance the cause of young people in need for more than four decades. As chair of the Board of Directors for America’s Promise Alliance, Mrs. Powell is helping lead the 350+ partner network’s efforts to improve the lives of young people by connecting more of them with the resources essential for success. She also helps guide its GradNation Campaign, an initiative to raise the nation’s high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020.  

In addition to her role with America’s Promise, Mrs. Powell sits on the boards of several educational, cultural, charitable and civic organizations including Vice Chair of the Board of Directors’ Committee of Community & Friends for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the YouthBuild USA Advisory Board. She is also honorary chair of the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI). DCPNI is one of 57 Promise Neighborhoods across the United States selected by the Department of Education to develop a cradle to career pipeline for children to ensure that they obtain a quality education, graduate from college or a vocational school, and grow up to have successful careers and communities.

Mrs. Powell was a member of President Barack Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from 2010 to 2012 and served as the chairman of the National Council of the Best Friends Foundation from 1989 to 2000. She has also chaired the advisory board for Civic Change, Inc.

Mrs. Powell is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Emerson College, an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Shenandoah University and the Civic Change Award from the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. She has also been honored by Washingtonian magazine as Washingtonian of the Year and is the recipient of the Leadership Award from the Women’s Center in Virginia, the Edward A. Bouchet Legacy Award from Howard University and a 2009 Inspire Award Honoree by AARP The Magazine. Mrs. Powell is the author of two children’s books, My Little Wagon and America’s Promise, which were published in 2003 with great success.

Mrs. Powell was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and went on to study speech pathology and audiology at Emerson College in Boston. She worked as the staff audiologist for the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing.

Alma and Colin Powell were married in 1962. Mrs. Powell spent the next 33 years raising a family and accompanying her husband on his various military assignments in the United States and overseas. While her husband was stationed at the Pentagon, she served as the Army liaison to the National Red Cross as part of a team of volunteer consultants from the military services. During Gen. Powell’s tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, she was the Advisor to the Red Cross of the Military District of Washington. Most recently, during her husband’s tenure as the 65th Secretary of State, Mrs. Powell served as the honorary president of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide. She also sat on the advisory board of the Hospitality and Information Service and was an honorary member of the Department of State Fine Arts Committee.