Diahann Billings-Burford ’86

A Career In Service
Diahann, a native of Brooklyn – where she still lives with her husband and two children, has created a career steeped in service to others. 
After Grace, Diahann attended Poly Prep, Yale and Columbia University School of Law. She began as a history teacher, then a curriculum developer, and next a corporate attorney, and then went on to focus her professional career on improving the quality of educational opportunity in New York City. She served as Director of College Guidance and Director of Leadership Development Opportunities at Prep for Prep, an organization she credits with giving her the opportunity to attain a life-changing education. From there, she took a position as the Director of External Affairs (NY) for Achievement First, a charter school management organization.
Always interested in service, went to work at City Year New York, a leading volunteer service organization that has worked to engage young people in service for the benefit of New York City’s public school children.
In June 2009, Diahann was named New York City’s (and the nation’s) first Chief Service Officer, responsible for leading NYC Service, a city-wide initiative to promote volunteerism. The program was an answer to President Obama’s national call for service. Diahann led NYC Service to set a new standard for how cities can tap the power of their people to tackle most pressing challenges, guided by three overarching goals: “Help more New Yorkers connect to service opportunities more easily; target volunteers to address the City’s greatest needs; and promote service as a core part of what it means to be a citizen of the greatest city in the world.”
Since the change in the City’s administration, Diahann has moved on, now Head of Corporate Responsibility for Time Warner. Her commitment to service and improving educational opportunities continues to permeate her work and her life. She serves as a board member for the Children’s Aid Society College Preparatory School, a service in schools organization called buildOn and a member of the board of the New York City Housing Authority.

TRAILBLAZER FACTS:
  • Mayor Bloomberg appointed Diahann the nation’s first-ever municipal Chief Service Officer, charged with the launch of NYC Service, a division of the Mayor’s Office that taps the power of the people to meet pressing challenges.

  • NYC Service’s program helped bring over 9 million New Yorkers to volunteer their time to serve all 5 boroughs.

  • Among the 25 initiatives NYC Service embraced, Cool Roofs is a standout. In four years, Diahann led over 5,100 volunteers to paint over five million square feet of rooftop white across the city. This simple idea combats climate change by reducing the city’s energy demand during heat waves.
Diahann says, “Cool Roofs is where SCIENCE meets CIVIC engagement.”
  • Since its founding in 2009, NYC Service has served as a partner and model for the launch of similar programs in London, Athens, Madrid as well as other cities and suburbs around the world. 
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Grace Church School is a co-educational independent school in downtown Manhattan, New York City providing instruction for over 700 students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12.