News Releases
March 15, 2023

Bennie and Flash Wiley: A Legacy of Open Doors


Benaree 'Bennie' Wiley and Fletcher 'Flash' WileyThe John & Abigail Adams Benefit gets its name from a famous Boston couple well-known for their advocacy, public service, and devotion to and support of one another. It’s fitting, then, that at the upcoming Adams Benefit on April 1, the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF) will honor another Boston couple renowned for their many years of selfless leadership, philanthropy, and commitment to community service, both as partners and throughout their individual careers.

Benaree “Bennie” Wiley and Fletcher “Flash” Wiley will receive the BBF’s 2023 Public Service Award, given annually to a business or individuals who exemplify leadership in community service and philanthropy.

“To receive an award, and to receive an award together with Flash, around our work in the community and our work in hopefully helping to make a better community, is quite an honor,” Bennie Wiley said. “We couldn’t be more humbled and pleased to be receiving this award.”

That work—spanning 50 years of leadership in several significant Boston institutions and organizations—has had a profound impact on the people of Boston and beyond.

“Bennie and Flash, through their personal and professional endeavors, have touched countless lives throughout the Commonwealth and the country—mine included,” said BBF President Stephen Hall. “Their legacy of service is a beacon for us all, and I am honored and proud to recognize their selfless commitment and dedication.”

From 1991 until her retirement in 2005, Bennie Wiley served as President and CEO of The Partnership. The Partnership’s goal is to assist businesses in the Boston area to attract, retain, and develop professionals of color, to increase the number of black professionals at all levels of leadership in the corporate sector of Boston, and to help these professionals navigate the complex corporate structure of Boston. Under Bennie’s leadership, The Partnership became a major force in Boston’s corporate world.

“The Partnership impacted the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of professionals of color in the city,” said Bennie Wiley. “When someone who we may not even know will come up and thank us for something we’ve done in the past and say how it made a difference for them or opened a door for them, it’s incredibly gratifying.”

“The number of people to whom the Wileys have given time and energy and support to, who don’t just consider them acquaintances, but consider them close personal friends, is astounding,” said Dean Richlin, Co-Chair of the 2023 Adams Benefit. “That’s a wonderful thing accomplish in life, to give so much of yourself out to others and then so readily return it with deep love and affection.”

Despite the well-deserved accolades and honors, according to their son Pratt Wiley, who now serves as President of The Partnership, “They’ve never done anything for personal recognition. What has always been most important to them is that there are more of us behind them than there were before them, and knowing that anyone—probably especially me, but anyone—is continuing that legacy is something that brings them a lot of joy.”

Bennie Wiley has also served as Chair of the Boston Children’s Museum and a Trustee of Boston College, an Overseer of the WGBH Educational Foundation, and a Director of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Boston Foundation. As a former director of the Crispus Attucks Children’s Center, she and Flash were honored for their decades of service with the dedication of a playground in their name at the Center. In 2003, Bennie Wiley was selected as one of Boston’s most powerful women by Boston Magazine.

Flash Wiley was a founding partner of Budd, Reilly, and Wiley, at the time the largest minority-dominant law firm in New England. From 1975-76, he served as the third President of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association (MBLA). The MBLA later created the Fletcher “Flash” Wiley MBLA Legacy Scholarship Award in his honor, to support the development of students who “display academic and professional excellence…and exhibit a commitment to diversity and inclusion through leadership and volunteerism.” He is a founding member of the Black Alumni Association of both Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School, and he founded the Governor’s Commission on Minority and Business Development in 1984. In 1996, he joined PRWT Services, Inc., as vice president and general counsel; by the time he retired from employment with PRWT in 2008, he’d helped build the company into one of the nation’s largest minority-owned businesses and Black Enterprise Magazine’s 2009 “Company of the Year.”

Flash Wiley was appointed to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Air Force Academy—where, in 1965, he became the Academy’s fifth-ever Black graduate, and first-ever Black Fulbright Scholar—by President Barack Obama in 2012. He has also served as a Director of the New England Legal Foundation and an Overseer of the New England Region Anti-Defamation League. He has received numerous civic and professional awards, including induction into the 2010 “Academy of Distinguished Bostonians.”

While they have done such tremendous work throughout the city in their individual roles, it is their cooperation and mutual support for one another—and the values that drive them—that have allowed their impact to be even greater than the sum of its parts.

“Flash and I have done a lot of things in each of our respective spheres, while always ensuring we’re supportive of each other,” Bennie Wiley said.

Those who have worked with the Wileys understand how deeply passionate they are about the work they’ve done to promote diversity and mentor the next generation of leaders. Over the last 50 years, countless people throughout the city and beyond have benefitted from their selflessness and determination to open the power structure to underrepresented groups throughout the legal and business communities, as well as within local government.

“I’ve gotten the calls—many people have—from Flash, asking for our help finding opportunities for people, helping them find their place within the city,” Richlin said. “It’s because of that determination to help that the Wileys are among the leading causes behind Boston’s increasing diversity—both in terms of who lives here, but also who leads us—compared to what it once was.”

Despite retiring from The Partnership in 2005, Bennie Wiley’s enthusiasm for public service and commitment to the next generation is as strong as ever. When asked what her advice to young people in Boston would be, she didn’t hesitate.

“Find your passion,” she said. “Or find what really motivates you and is important to you. It may be finding an organization in [the public service] space, it may be creating something in that space, but life is about more than your day-to-day job. I think to be fully fulfilled and to help build community, you need to be part of something larger than your workplace. There are so many ways to make a difference.”

That advice, along with his parents’ example, is what set Pratt on his own path in public service. Though it was never his plan to follow so closely in his parents’ footsteps, he also understands how it happened—and how much it means to them and the legacy their partnership has inspired in him.

“My father’s success in legal practice never would have been as meaningful without The Partnership, and the same is true with my mom,” Pratt remarked. “The Partnership wouldn’t have been as successful or impactful without my dad and the relationship that they have. Each of them is successful in their own ways, but neither of them could have done it without the other.”

Though Pratt looks forward to watching his parents receive the Public Service Award honor at the Adams Benefit, he says he measures their influence in a different way on a day-to-day basis—one that makes it clear just how deep their impact on this city has been.

“My sister and I have had the privilege over the last 30+ years of seeing our parents honored quite frequently,” he said, “by having people come up to us on the street to tell us how much our parents—the work they do, the role models they were, the path they set—how much it meant to them as individuals, professionals of color, leaders in civic spaces. It’s really the best honor they can receive, and the best inheritance we could ever ask for.”