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Alumnae Stories

Honorary Degree Recipient Kathleen Bertrand, C'73, Shines Like a Diamond

June 2018

Spelman Alumna Kathleen BertrandAfter 32 years, Kathleen Bertrand retired from her day job at the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, a private, nonprofit organization created to leverage Atlanta’s economy through conventions and tourism. A global promoter of all things Atlanta by day and accomplished jazz singer by night, Bertrand can boast a tale of two career successes.

Born in 1951, the Atlanta native is the youngest of four children born to the late William Henry and Nan Gibson Jackson. Singing since the age of 11, Bertrand's performances have ranged from Olympic Games to U.S. presidents to worldwide jazz festivals.

An Alumnae Affairs Champion

Soon after graduating from Spelman College in 1973 with a degree in English, Bertrand landed in the Office of Alumnae Affairs as the alumnae office assistant in 1974. She ascended to associate director of development, and from 1976 to 1978, she served as director of alumnae affairs. During her tenure at Spelman, she created Spelman's very first Alumnae/Student internship program, which linked Spelman students with alumnae in their area of interest.

Atlanta's Global Advocate

A short time after serving at Spelman, she began her ACVB career in 1983 as the membership account executive. Years later, she would become its advertising and membership manager before becoming ACVB’s vice president of membership and community affairs in 1990. Under her leadership in this position, ACVB membership increased by 70 percent. In 2007, Bertrand assumed the title of senior vice president of community and governmental affairs, a position she held until her retirement June 30, 2015.

Her resume of work at ACVB includes several lasting legacies for Atlanta’s hospitality industry including: development of the Atlanta Heritage Guide, an ACVB’s publication targeted to African-American tourists; creation of the Diversity in the Hospitality Industry Summit, which fostered nationwide hospitality industry discussions on issues of diversity and inclusion; launch of the Hospitality Student Summit and ACVB’s Diversity Marketing Advisory Council, designed to provide input and direction for programs in minority communities; and co-founding HIP Atlanta, a nonprofit dedicated to the growth of diverse leadership in Atlanta’s hospitality industry. HIP Atlanta established the Kathleen Bertrand Hospitality Scholarship for aspiring college students studying hospitality.   

A History Maker and Influential Voice

She is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the Tiffany 1998 Alumnae Achievement Award for Arts and Entertainment; 2001-2002 Sisters Chapel Music Ministry Award; recognition by Successful Meetings as one of the “25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry in 2013”; Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine as one of the “Most Influential African-Americans in Hospitality and Tourism”; and by the Atlanta Business League as one of “Atlanta’s Top 100 Black Women of Influence,”  and a 2016 induction into "The HistoryMakers," the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world designed to promote and celebrate the successes and to document movements, events and organizations that are important to the African American community and to American society, to name just a few.

Multifaceted Recording Artist and Writer

On the career flip side, the renowned jazz recording artist and writer has six CDs to her credit and has opened for the likes of Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Rachelle Ferrell and Roy Ayers, with whom she toured and recorded. Additionally, she performed the National Anthem for several of Atlanta’s professional sports teams, as well as for former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Bertrand has received several honors for her vocal stylings and arts contributions, including the Kuumba Award given by East Point/College Park, Georgia, Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta; the inaugural Impact Award from Black Women In Jazz; recognition by the United Negro College Fund as one of “Atlanta’s Legends”; the “Contribution to the Arts” Award by the Pi Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; the 2016 Georgia Highlight Award given by the Georgia Entertainment Gala; the Civic Award for the Arts presented by the Southern Area of The Links Inc.; and recognition by Spelman College with its distinguished “Alumnae Achievement Award for the Arts & Entertainment.” In 2015, she was voted Jazz Vocalist of the Year by Black Women in Jazz.

Spellbinding Sister in Song

Bertrand co-produces “Sisters in Song: Saluting Jazz’s Greatest Divas,” an annual standing-room-only performance featuring Atlanta’s top jazz vocalists in salute to Women’s History Month. She is produced “Celebrating Sarah – Honoring the Music of Sarah Vaughan” for the 2017 Atlanta Jazz Festival’s Legends Stage. She also serves as executive producer and founder of BronzeLens Film Festival, which was recently designated as an Academy Award qualifying film festival – one of only two such designations in the state of Georgia. The festival is dedicated to promoting Atlanta as a film mecca for people of color. BronzeLens is a founding partner of Ava DuVernay’s African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, now known as ARRAY.

Bertrand lives in Atlanta. She is mother to four adult children: two Morehouse sons, twin Spelman daughters, and is the grandmother of Caleb.

Visit Bertrand's Website