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EDI Celebrates the Life and Legacy of NIH Champion for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, O.H. Laster

O.H. Laster

Ostler H. Laster, better known within the NIH community as "O.H.," died April 4 at Howard County General Hospital from complications of a heart condition at the age of 90.

O. H. Laster will be remembered as a person who loved all persons and found good in everyone whom he encountered. He worked passionately in the field of civil rights, diversity and inclusion with his colleagues at both the local and national levels. At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Laster demonstrated inclusionary practices by getting to know as many of the staff as possible, no matter what occupation one held or at what level of leadership within the organization. He shared commonalities with almost everyone, whether it was profession-related, hobbies, or ones passions and journeys. Laster served as the friend and conduit to bridge differences amongst strangers.

Laster served in many roles at the NIH. He worked in the NIH Office of Equal Employment from the 1970’s - 2000 as an Equal Employment Oppurtunity (EEO) Officer and Black Employment Program Manager. He was a longtime planner of Special Emphasis programs and Equal Employment activities at the NIH. Laster also served as the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Training Officer. Out of all his roles at the NIH, he was arguably best known for his work as serving as the Program Director for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program where he worked with the late wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, bridging educational awareness on King’s civil rights work for the nation, and on the promotion of Congressional legislation for having a national holiday celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King.

Laster worked to build and lead the NIH chapter of Blacks In Government (BIG) with Reverend James Moon, former BIG President. He also worked with the founders of the National BIG organization, Ms. Ruby Fields, and Ms. Ramonia Hawkins, to build infrastructure and capacity to include a core training structure for federal employees to receive training to build skills and competencies for advancing careers.

We will all miss our dear friend O.H. Laster. We will forever remember his kindness and his passion for helping people in need. We will remember his great attributes at the NIH, and many will follow in his footsteps to help make the NIH a better workplace for all.

Memories from EDI Staff

I too was saddened to hear of O.H. Laster’s passing. I will always remember the passion he brought to everything he did. No task was too small and no job too menial for him to perform if it meant getting the message of equity, diversity and inclusion out. He was always pleasant and willing to share the importance of our craft with anyone he met. It was evident Mr. Laster had “fire in his belly” for the call on his life. He will be missed.

Jackie Dobson

I am saddened to hear the news of O.H.’s passing. O.H. was truly a champion for equity, diversity and inclusion. His commitment to promoting EDI at NIH outlasted his federal career as he continued to volunteer here for years after his retirement. I learned a great deal from O.H. both in the realm of EDI and health and fitness. He truly was a fitness guru who inspired all who passed his way. A life well lived!

Shelma Little

O.H. Laster was assigned to be my chaperon and colleague when the NCI EEO office conducted outreach activities away from home. I learned about building relationships with key faculty, administrators and students in academia as well as community leaders in diversity and EEO from O.H. Laster’s tutelage. My fondest memories with O. H. Laster were when we were on an outreach trip to a medical school in North Carolina and I met my future husband, as O. H. Laster hovered around like a parent not allowing gentlemen company out with daughters without a chaperon. My husband had to quickly maneuver a strategy to walk me out to the car carrying outreach materials to request a date to the opera before O.H. Laster would come quickly around. We stayed friends and colleagues for many years. His presence and kind spirit will be missed.

Kay Johnson

I worked with O.H. Laster on the NIH Black History Committee. He always shared very interesting topics and ideas for Special Emphasis programs at NIH. O.H. Laster was a pleasure to work with. He always encouraged NIH employees to get involved with various NIH activities. I will always remember his upbeat personality and smile.

Alfreda Layne

I will always remember O.H. Laster’s "presence."" Whether he was presiding over the Black Employee’s Advisory Committee (BEAC), a Black History Month event, or just talking in the hall with a colleague, Mr. Laster commanded the room! I admired his leadership at every occasion. I have missed his presence, though felt the impact of the efforts he made in support of employees at the NIH employees, including me. I deeply appreciate Laster’s work and contributions.

Jennifer Haley