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Spelman Salutes Anita Estell for Being a Spark of Light

November 2020

Spelman Salutes Anita EstellThe Spelman community celebrates the life and legacy of Anita R. Estell, a valued member of the Spelman community and a leader in her field who served as the College’s lobbyist from 1998 until fall 2020.

With more than 25 years of experience working in Washington, D.C., Estell’s achievements at the national level are unparalleled. As the first Black woman to become a principal at a major independent lobbying firm, Van Scoyoc Associates Inc. in 1993; equity owner of the fastest growing law firm in the U.S., and most recently president and CEO of the Estell Group, she was considered a master operative and indelibly demonstrated her prowess as a successful attorney and federal relations and policy executive.

Start of Quote A small spark can start a fire. When it comes to both transactional and transformational thought leadership, bold thinking and quality representation at the federal level, Anita R. Estell was End of Quotethat spark. -- Estell Group website

Estell Served Her Clients Tenaciously

Her background as a former House of Representatives appropriations committee staff person, presidential appointee and senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Education prepared her to assist clients with a number of policy matters. She served as lead consultant on teams that helped secure more than $1 billion in funding for the model light rail system in the U.S.; $2.5 billion in mandatory funding for a coalition of minority-serving institutions; the authorization of disease-specific legislation; enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Commemorative Coin Act (P.L. 110-451); the placement of a statue honoring the late Rosa Parks in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol; and $3 million for a Harvard teaching hospital’s acquisition of research equipment.

Estell Opened Up a Realm of Possibilities for Spelman Students

Spelman Salutes Lobbyist Anita Estell

While Estell’s client successes quantitatively are measured in the tens of billions of dollars, and the number of people who have benefited from her efforts are measured in the millions, perhaps one of her proudest achievements was the profound impact she had on the lives of more than 235 Spelman student scholars via her involvement with the Spelman on Capitol Hill initiative.

Working with the Spelman Offices of Alumnae Engagement and Student Life Engagement, Estell leveraged her congressional relationships, passion for empowerment, civic engagement, diversity and inclusion and leadership development to create powerful agendas that inspired alumnae, congresswomen, congressmen, and senators.

Estell Modeled How to Be a Voice for Change

Spelman Students on the Hill with Anita Estell

The changing face of America presents implications for cities, counties, states and every sector, including education, financial services, health and human services, national security, science and technology and telecommunications. Estell taught our Spelman students how to lean into excellence and thrive in every area in order to truly change the world in meaningful ways.

Start of QuoteFrom opportunities to shadow Congressional members from their states, to networking and being motivated by dynamic Congresswomen speakers such as Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Shelia Jackson Lee, Terri Sewell, Lucy McBath (to name a few), to learning the principles of civic engagement through her fall campus seminar and reading her book “The Power of Us,” to presenting their policy recommendations to senior staffers, interaction and photo opportunities with the late Congressman John Lewis, and leadership development seminars with personnel directors from leadingEnd of Quote corporate and nonprofit organizations, our annual journey was truly enlightening. -- Sharon Owens, C'76, former director of alumnae engagement at Spelman.

As a result of her unselfish efforts, many Spelman students went on to pursue internship opportunities and careers in the C-Suite at Fortune 500 companies, became future policy makers, secured positions at every level of government, and were appointed officers of large, national and international nonprofit organizations.

"Each year as we returned to Capitol Hill, we would connect with recent graduates, who had become congressional staffers, graduate students in public policy or law, attorneys, policy makers and nonprofit lobbyists. They would often express to current students that their Spelman on Capitol Hill experience had a profound impact on their career choice. They were confident that a Spelman woman would soon hold a powerful, strategic congressional position or create policy that would "Change the World,' Owens added.

Estell Was a Gift Who Showed Us How the U.S. Government Works

Spelman Salutes the College's Lobbyist Anita Estell

Estell was the founder of CELIE - the Civic Engagement and Leadership Institute for Everyone and chair of ROSA PAC  (Raising Our Sisters Political Action Committee) --  it is the only national PAC solely focused on women of color seeking election to Congress. When CELIE was first established, her first two summer interns were Spelman on Capitol Hill participants.

A published author, Estell's comprehensive knowledge of the federal process and commitment to civic engagement are evidenced in her book, "The Power of Us: The Art and Science of Enlightened Citizen Engagement and Collective Action (How the U.S. Government 'Really' Works and How to Get it to Work for You)."

She received her juris doctor and bachelor of journalism degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She earned a certificate from the Harvard Kennedy School Women and Power Executive Leadership Program and was a founding member, board member and active supporter of numerous national and local service organizations.

Spelman Salutes and Cherishes Anita R. Estell's Spark

We are grateful for Anita Estell’s commitment to uplift the mission of Spelman College and to amplify the voices of Black women. It is with deep felt love and appreciation that we offer our sincere condolences to the Estell family.

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