Celebrating Marilyn Black

Marilyn Black, Vice President for Heritage Development of the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry and Tourism will retire June 13 after 15 years in the position.

Saturday, June 13, will be Marilyn Black Day in the City of Oil City.

“Marilyn Black has been an extremely important part of the development of the Oil Heritage Region,” said John R. Phillips, II, President and CEO of the Oil Region Alliance. “She helped develop the region first as a PA Heritage Area for years then achieved the National Heritage Area status. Marilyn was involved in the extremely complex merger of four distinct non-profits to form the Oil Region Alliance as it is today.”

“When hired to serve as Manager of the Oil Heritage Region in May 1995,” Black said, “I looked forward to helping coordinate, communicate about, and write grants to fund the progressive projects described by the insightful and enthusiastic founders and leaders of the PA Oil Heritage Region. The knowledge learned and the experiences shared since then have been more fantastic than I could have imagined!”

Black’s significant accomplishments include the historic preservation of Tarbell House, Neilltown Church, Coal Oil Johnny House, and most recently Scheide House. These projects are particularly complex because of the grant writing and assembly, project management, and ongoing support development needed to ensure they are protected and preserved for future generations, continuing to educate and contribute to the Oil Region.

“When you look around the community at the many accomplishments that have happened, you can see Marilyn’s touch,” said Betsy Kellner, Oil Region Alliance Board of Directors Secretary and Executive Director of the Venango Museum. Kellner cited the Visitor Centers, the bike trails, the Visitor Guides, the Preservation Awards, and the Downs Building as additional projects in which Black has been involved.

During her time in Heritage Development, Marilyn has served as vice president, program manager, planner, executive director, grant writer, project manager, and supervisor.

From 1995-2002, Black served as manager of Oil Heritage Region, Inc., the non-profit corporation which administered the official Pennsylvania Heritage Park since 1994 and the Oil Region National Heritage Area since 2004. She served as Executive Director from 2002-2004. In 2005, Oil Heritage Region, Inc. merged to form the Oil Region Alliance as it is known today. Black also served concurrently as part-time Executive Director for Oil Heritage Region Tourist Promotion Agency, Inc., another organization that merged to form the Alliance, during 1996-1998. She was a planning director and grant writer for Northwest Pennsylvania Training Partnership Consortium, Inc. from 1980–1995.

Since 2009, Black has freelanced as an outdoor writer and photographer with stories appearing in PA Magazine, PA Angler and Boater Magazine, and Recreation News.

“Marilyn has with both consistency and efficiency confronted some of the most daunting challenges to the maintenance of this region’s vital heritage with a positive attitude and a carefully thought out plan,” said Dr. Barry Cressman, Oil Region Alliance Board of Directors Chairman and retired clergy member. “Her talent and the scope of her expertise is enormous.”

Black has volunteered and served numerous officer roles in the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, Petroleum History Institute, PA Heritage Parks Association, Penn Soil Rural Conservation and Development Council, and Northwest Regional Transportation Advisory Committee. She is also a founding member of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail Alliance and the Council on Greenways and Trails.

Favorite creative projects of Black include producing the “Uplifting Melodies” live piano-vocal duet CD benefiting Venango Museum, developing the “Art Lovers Guide to Libraries in the Oil Heritage Region” full color brochure, and coordinating the “Nature Art Showcase” annual exhibit and sale to benefit the Council on Greenways and Trails.

“I believe the secret to her success is that she truly lives and believes in the significance of the mission of the Alliance and the national importance of the Oil Region National Heritage Area and all the other state and national Heritage Areas as leaders in their respective states, counties, and communities,” Phillips said.

“Working in this capacity has afforded opportunities to learn the amazing and complex history of the early oil and gas industry, and to visit first-hand many of the important sites here in northwestern Pennsylvania and across the U.S.A. that continue to shape so many aspects of our daily lives,” Black said. “Better yet, it’s been my pleasure to work alongside extremely dedicated people from many backgrounds who have chosen to keep educating others and preserving the locations and artifacts that link past-present-future so pervasively in Oil Creek valley.”

Black holds an MBA from Penn State and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been married to her freelance outdoor writer and photographer husband, Darl C. Black, Jr. since 1973. They have owned and operated Blackwolfe Communications, LLC. since 2013. Black is also the President and co-owner of Heritage Perspectives, LLC. since 2013.

When not hard at work or volunteering, Black enjoys fishing, boating, kayaking, photography, biking, hiking and bird watching at her home in Cochranton, PA.

“Grateful for the many years of her faithful service and her many accomplishments on behalf of the Oil Region, we shall miss her both dearly and deeply and wish her only the best in her retirement,” Dr. Cressman said.

Phillips echoed this sentiment on behalf of the whole Oil Region Alliance, saying, “The team and I wish her well in retirement, and we’re happy for her to take more time to enjoy all the outdoor activities she loves in Northwest PA and wherever her and Darl’s adventures take them.”


  • Ron Black 2 months ago Reply

    What a blessing to know her and watch her labor of love for our region. She is one of the most “get ‘er done” person I have enjoyed being around. She has also been a good friend. I’ll miss her and realize that she leaves some big shoes for someone or ones, to fill. God speed, Marilyn.

  • Rodney Custer 2 months ago Reply

    Thank you Marilyn for your many years. Particularly your efforts on behalf of the
    restoration of the Neilltown Church. Enjoyed playing music there for ten years
    straight – have a great and happy retirement.

    Rod Custer
    President: Forest County Country Music Association

  • Jack Cohen 2 months ago Reply

    Congratulations on Your Retirement

  • Susan Beates 2 months ago Reply

    Thank you Marilyn for ALL you hard work and long hours!! You HAVE made a positive difference in so many ways!

  • Peforker 2 months ago Reply

    Thank you so much for all of your contributions. Pamela Egbert Forker.

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