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Uncrowned Community Builders: Thelma Ayers Hardiman

Author: Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr.P.H., Ph.D. – Co-Founder, Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, Inc.

Thelma Ayers Hardiman, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from LeMoyne College in Memphis and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan. She has been a trailblazer in many of her accomplishments. She was one of the first African American females to receive a Master’s degree in Public Health, which stemmed from her interest in tuberculosis because of a family member’s affliction. She later received postgraduate credits from the University at Buffalo in Education. A retired educator, she was the first African American female assistant principal to be appointed as acting principal in the City of Buffalo, and was among the few African American school principals at the time of her appointment. She has been cited for her work with special students and for her innovative disciplinary methods that emphasized reward rather than punishment.

Mrs. Hardiman has distinguished herself in her career and in community service. Through her many volunteer activities and leadership positions, she has been a role model and mentor to many for more than fifty years. Because of her tireless efforts and empathy, her activities and accomplishments have often been directed at helping others.

As a member and former president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., an international organization of over 150,000 women, she saw a need and introduced to this area the Debutantes program and Ball, an event for young African American women that provides them with cultural enrichment, training and grooming, self esteem, confidence, and prepares them for the adult world as they make their informal debut into society. Many teenagers have developed into productive young women as a result of their experience and participation in the program. The Debutante Ball has become a Buffalo community tradition.

In 1950, Mrs. Hardiman became a charter member of the then newly organized local chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Her role in this international organization of eleven thousand women is exceptional. She has twice been elected president of the Buffalo chapter, and has been the General Chairperson of the Chapter’s annual Ebony Fashion Fair, which she introduced to the Buffalo area in 1958. For forty-one years, she chaired the event that has produced thousands of dollars in scholarship funds annually for high school seniors. She has provided leadership at the local, regional, and national levels in The Links, Incorporated serving as Eastern Area Director, National Chapter Establishment Officer, National Vice President, and various other offices and specialized roles that utilize her unique talents and strong dedication to service.

Mrs. Hardiman has served on many boards including Studio Arena Theater, Buffalo Arts Commission, Hallwalls, Health Systems Agency of Western New York, Inc., and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) where she served as Board President. She was the first African American elected to serve as the President of a metropolitan YWCA.

In recognition of her service, Mrs. Hardiman has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Buffalo Urban League Family Award; Health Systems Agency of Western New York, Inc., Certificate of Service; NAACP, Rosa Parks Award; Council of Churches, 1986 Philip Melanchthon Award; YWCA, Woman of the Year; City of Buffalo, Community Good Neighbor Award; Buffalo Youth Board, Merit Award; and the National Sojourner Truth Meritorious Service Award. Mrs. Hardiman appeared in the first edition of Who’s Who Among American Women. Mayor Anthony M. Masiello proclaimed October 23, 1998, Thelma Ayers Hardiman Day in recognition of her “tireless efforts and much appreciated contributions to a very grateful community” as General Chairman of the Ebony Fashion Fair.

Her commitment to her church is as evident as her commitment to her community. She devotes much time to programs for youth and family. She was former Chair of the Board of Education for the Lutheran Church of Our Savior. She was the first woman elected President of a church council at Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church. In addition, she served as Chairperson for Mission Outreach at Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church, She also is Chair of Volunteers for the Central City Café.

Mrs. Hardiman was married to the late Winton “Flash” Hardiman, and has one daughter, Dr. Joye Hardiman, and a granddaughter, Salmh, of Tacoma, Washington.


The Friends of the Buffalo Story is involved in a yearlong project whose mission is to uncover and reveal the heritage-based stories of people who live along the Ferry Street Corridor. As part of this effort “The Friends” is working very closely with community-groups, who have been doing this work for many years. None has done this more effectively and diligently than the uncrowned queens institute for research & education on women, inc.

We are proud to be collaborating with them to bring you this ongoing feature during the month of February, which focuses on some of the “uncrowned community builders” who have done so much to strengthen the African-American community of Buffalo’s East Side as well as the region.

Additional “uncrowned community builders” are as follows:

rev. j. edward nash – a legendary buffalo pastor

eva noles – nurse, historian, pioneer

mary lee crosby chappelle – sage of the ages

john edmonston brent – master builder

Hester C. Jeffrey – Advocate of Women’s Suffrage Movement


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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