Corporate Diversity Meets Equal Opportunity Education: UNCF and iCore’s CEO, a Match Made in Heaven
Former iCore CEO Stephen Canton voices his support for the United Negro College Fund and HBCU’s
“A match made in heaven” is how Stephen Canton describes his longtime support of the United Negro College Fund, the nation’s largest and oldest provider of minority scholarship assistance.
Canton, senior partner with Anacostia Ventures in Palm Beach, Florida, and former Chairman and CEO of iCore, the Virginia-based cloud communications provider, grew a mutually valuable partnership with the UNCF during his time at iCore.
The UNCF, which counts 37 historically black colleges and universities as member institutions, is based in Washington, D.C., not far from where Canton was raised. UNCF-member schools are provided with a range of support by the UNCF that enables them to keep their academic programs strong and their tuitions affordable, according to Canton.
For Canton, what started as a business relationship grew into something much more.
“We were an upstart with a pugnacious chip on our shoulder,” he says of iCore at the time. “We were up against the big boys, like Sprint and AT&T. We had success with smaller companies and were just beginning to move up in our weight class.”
What the UNCF took notice of was that iCore boasted a diverse workforce, Canton says. And that workforce was well trained, well-compensated, and was an accurate representation of the communities that it served.
The UNCF decided to take a chance on the start-up, awarding iCore a contract to upgrade the organization’s phone and internet service.
“The UNCF tagline of ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste’ took on a lot of meaning as we were bringing updated broadband to students that had been historically underserved,” Canton says.
As the relationship between the UNCF and iCore became more of a partnership, Canton decided to give back more than was taken in, he says. He spearheaded the “Northern Virginia UNCF Strong” campaign, working to encourage business owners in Virginia to support the UNCF and minority education.
“I know what it’s like to be at a disadvantage when it comes to schooling,” he says. “I wanted to do what we could to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to get the higher education that they deserve.”
Because of his efforts, Canton was asked to chair the UNCF’s masked ball charity event on two separate occasions, including during the UNCF’s 70th-anniversary celebration in 2014.
“It was a true honor for me to support such a tremendous organization,” he says. “UNCF’s work provides invaluable access to education for minority students. Those students, upon graduation, will go on to contribute to their local community and national economy.”
“I personally encourage all business owners to consider supporting the UNCF,” he adds, “and helping to advance the cause for supporting minority higher education.”
Corporate donations like iCore’s can go a long way to help students at historically black colleges and universities graduate, according to Rober Rucker, vice president of information technology at UNCF.
Under Stephen Canton, Rucker says, iCore’s corporate support of UNCF included multiple technology-themed conferences, the annual Martin Luther King Breakfast in Washington, D.C., the Washington, D.C Mayor’s Ball, and the UNCF’s national anniversary celebration gala.
“In addition to iCore’s multi-year support, Stephen Canton was also a generous personal donor to our organization,” Rucker adds.
And as a corporate donor, iCore’s generosity helped ensure UNCF and its member institutions were able to leverage capacity-building options when most needed, closing competitive disadvantages, Rucker says.
“Corporate donor support is vital,” he says, “helping us fuel the next generation of diverse teachers, technologists, scientists, and entrepreneurs who will ensure a vibrant American economy and workplace for all of us in the future.”