Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Phyllis Diane Gilreath Bland is the oldest of six children to Johnnie Que and Clara Bell Gilreath. She has always been a great big sister to her siblings Linda, Cindy, Carol, Greg, and David. She was an avid reader and began dancing as a Polarette with her North High School majorette group.
After high school, she enrolled in and graduated from Columbia College with an Associate of Arts Degree in Fashion. At Columbia, she was in Forward Motion Touring Dance Company and was very active in the Child of God Gospel Choir, which enabled her to tour Missouri and the surrounding area. Her education at Columbia would cement her love of fashion. Later in life, she would source famous European designers during her travels.
She then ventured to Atlanta, Georgia and enrolled at Spelman College. One of the things that Diane is most proud of is to be a Spelman woman. Here, she pledged the first line of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. Mu Pi Chapter. She was number 79 on the line 'Iridescent 87' and the year was 1979. As she brags, "we were so fly in our black tux tails with fishnet stockings and no bottoms." At Spelman, she was also in the Atlanta University Center Dance Theater. She graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science Pre-Law with a minor in dance.
In May of 1977, she met Theodore Fischer Bland, Jr., a Clark Atlanta University MBA student, during his work study at the library. Their first date was an Earth, Wind and Fire concert. They married in 1981 and had two daughters, Bridget and Audrey.
For 25 years, Ms. Bland was an International Flight Attendant for Trans World Airlines. This work really fed her soul and love for adventure. She was fortunate enough to travel the world and take her girls along for her journeys. After retirement, she held a myriad of jobs across industries, including work for The Coca Cola Company for the 1996 Olympic Games, La Belle Peau Day Spa, Fulton County Board of Education, The Arts Exchange, and Georgia World Congress Center.
In 1997, she arrived at Clark Atlanta University, where she managed the Day-To-Day Operations of the Art Galleries, the University’s Historical Collection of Art. During this time period, Ms.Bland was overjoyed that both of her daughters also enrolled and graduated from her beloved Alma Mater, Spelman College. They both also pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc. -Mu Pi chapter. She is very proud that she was the class representative/agent for the class of 1979 for their Silver Anniversary and the same year her eldest, Bridget graduated.
In 2007, she was front of the house for the U.S. Social Forum and after ten years of being in the Atlanta Art Community, Ms. Bland left to travel the country, eventually working for the National Parks Service at Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier International Peace Park, Mount Rainier, King's Canyon Sequoia, and Yellowstone Grand Canyon. In 2016, Diane took a summer role as front office manager at the oldest lodge on Martha's Vineyard, the Kelley House. During this time, President Barack Obama's secret service, press corps and White House staff resided at her lodge during his annual vacation. The President invited her to his private residence to personally thank Diane and her fellow managers for being so kind to his staff during his stay. This was one of the most amazing days of her life. She loves to show the photo of her and our 44th President.
Some of Ms. Bland’s many accomplishments include owning her own Catering Business, receiving a Commendation from President Bill Clinton, for being part of the Air Fleet (transporting servicemen and women to the first Gulf War on TWA’s 747’s), being part of the crew who brought Pope John Paul the 2nd to the U.S. from Rome, and receiving the award for contributions to the Atlanta area from then-Mayor Shirley Franklin. She also notably coordinated the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day 2011, in Sedona, Arizona.
Diane has always been obsessed with learning and curious about trying new things and evolving. She is not great at “the quiet game” but prefers to chat people up and learn about their lives.
She enjoys cooking for loved ones and coloring books, walks along the Mississippi River, reading all kinds of books on her Kindle and from the library and nightly games of Mahjong. Ever the enthusiast of arts and culture, She loves testing her ability to guess famed black artists when she comes across notable work around the world and continues to immerse herself in art galleries and museums. She also typically sees a broadway play every time she visits New York. Beyond her accomplishments on paper, she has friends all over the country and is the type of person to drop everything to take care of anyone in need.
Ms. Bland is most proud to be the mother of Bridget and Audrey and has consistently traveled to visit both daughters and their husbands, L. Mychal and Bruce in New York and Boston. She is thrilled to finally become a grandmother, but has also relished in being an aunt to several nieces and nephews - taking them on field trips and cultural events in the Minneapolis area. She also enjoys caring for her beloved Granddog, Bailey whom she loves making blankets for.