Channell Wilkins '82
Channell Wilkins enrolled in Bucknell in fall 1977. After two years, Channell took a year off and worked for a Community Action Agency in Trenton, N.J. It was that experience and his family's history of service that led him to a career in public and nonprofit leadership. While at Bucknell, Channell was active on campus as a wrestler and as part of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
By 1982, Channell graduated from Bucknell with a bachelor of science in business administration to become a fourth-generation African American college graduate on his mother's side of the family. All prior graduates of the family were educators, beginning with his great-grandmother who graduated from St. Augustine College in 1910. This family legacy instilled in him a tradition of education and giving back to the community.
Channell had always heard his calling in various forms of community organizing and government service. Knowing in his heart that he was not meant for the classroom, Channell began his career through public and nonprofit service. Channell started this work as the business administrator for a runaway and homeless shelter, then moved on to lead homeless services for the City of Trenton. His next stop was as the Mercer County director of all senior and community services. He then received a master's in public administration from Rutgers and a certificate in community action, graduating with his advanced degree as a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society. He credits his academic success to the strong educational foundation laid for him in his undergraduate experience at Bucknell.
At the New Jersey State Department of Human Services, Channell helped to develop the state Juvenile Justice Commission and contributed to significant changes to the child support system over the next 10 years. Feeling a little burnt out by the political churnings of state government, he ventured back into the steady pace of the private nonprofit sector before being recruited back to public service as the director of the Office of Head Start for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration. Head Start serves as the nation's impetus for universal pre-K, and his tenure there was particularly rewarding and fulfilling. Channell wrapped up his career in government as director of community services, overseeing policy and direction for Head Start, Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, Senior Services, Homeless and Human Services, and nonprofit grant-making for the citizens of Palm Beach County, Fla. His public service was driven by results-oriented management and accountability exhibited through policy development, planning and implementation of effective programs, and providing processes for improving existing systems and business practices while maintaining fiscal well-being in state, local, federal and nonprofit agencies. He consistently focused on system changes that would help those in need gain opportunities to get out of poverty. Channell is adept at improving outcomes for the populations he serves while ensuring the most cost-effective and technology-driven solutions.
Channell has also made time for his alma mater by serving as an alumni admissions volunteer and assisting students through the Center for Career Advancement.
Coming full circle, Channell returned to New Jersey as the CEO of a nonprofit community action agency, Ocean Inc., working directly in communities for change. Ocean Inc. provides Head Start, senior services, home energy assistance, weatherization, social justice programs (Shop with a Cop) and case management, and makes grants to other partner nonprofits.
A graduate of Leadership New Jersey and a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Channell serves on several boards including Planned Parenthood North Central and South Jersey and New Jersey Jobs for America's Graduates, among others.
Married for close to 27 years to a Penn State and Rutgers graduate, Robin, they are the proud parents to two college students, both of whom will soon be fifth-generation college graduates. Channell is extremely proud to be a Bucknell alumnus and grateful for the 2022 Humanitarian Award.