Who's Who of Top Executives

Dolores M. Van Rensalier

Van Rensalier, Dolores

Title: Chief Executive Officer, President, Owner
Company: Huntoon-Van Rensalier Underground Railroad Foundation
Location: San Diego, California, United States

Dolores M. Van Rensalier, Chief Executive Officer, President and Owner at Huntoon-Van Rensalier Underground Railroad Foundation, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Executives for dedication, achievements, and leadership in research and preservation.

Born in New York in 1940 to white parents, but raised in California, Ms. Van Rensalier was shocked over the discovery of her black ancestry when she was 17. It shook her self-identity, but she knew beyond a doubt she had to openly honor all of her heritage; she couldn’t abandon those who were fighting for their civil rights. Ms. Van Rensalier thus set out on a healing journey of discovering her hidden roots. While raising two children from a previous marriage, she attended college at night while building a successful career in Los Angeles. She ultimately graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University in 1976. She also became a Certified Advanced Management Analyst (CABA) through the University of Southern California.

During this time, Ms. Van Rensalier continued to research for her ancestors and found that not only did both of her parents have a black parent, but her DNA was 44.3′ black, and her maternal great-grandfather, William P. Van Rensalier, was a black abolitionist and an engineer at a spice mill owned by his white friend, abolitionist Josiah Huntoon. They both ran the Underground Railroad at Mr. Huntoon’s home and spice mill in Paterson, New Jersey. Ms. Van Rensalier spent more than a decade piecing together everything she could find on their lives and their station, then a vacant lot. In 1994, her historic documentation in a distributed essay, “Bridge Street to Freedom,” helped to save and preserve the vacant lot into an official historical site in 1996. The essay was turned into a book, Bridge Street to Freedom in 2017.

In 2004, Ms. Van Rensalier led the five-member board of the Huntoon-Van Rensalier Underground Railroad Foundation, of which she was the founder and president, to fund and build a monument on the historic vacant lot she helped to preserve. People from across the nation also added donation funds to the “Let Freedom Ring” three historic circles for over 160 personalized bricks embedded at the site grounds. The symbolic bricks fortified both the abolitionist’s legacy of transcendent race. An application is being processed to make this historic monument a nationally recognized Underground Railroad Site.

Some of Ms. Van Rensalier’s other achievements include serving as the director of the “Black Art Exhibition” at the City of Los Angeles Festival, which had 220,000 attendees, and the founder of the “Watts Seniors History Exhibition” at the Los Angeles City Hall Rotunda. She was also the founder of the National All-American Rose Selection’s (AARS) Watts Senior Center Rose Garden, the official smallest in the nation. In recognition of her perseverance and dedication, Ms. Van Rensalier was honored with several accolades such as the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Award, the New Jersey State Senate Award, the California State Legislature Commendation Award from the entire California State Legislature and U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr.’s Special Congressional Recognition Award, among over 40 others.

Ms. Van Rensalier is now writing her memoir, Hidden Roots, and is married over 10 years to Dr. John E. Warren. Throughout her adult life she has often said, “The soul has no color; it is the soul’s character God will judge each of us by.”

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