Tabiri M. Chukunta is the executive director of community outreach and diversity for Saint Peter’s University Hospital and Healthcare System. An ordained ecumenical minister he describes the journey that took him from his village of origin in Nigeria to his present role as God-led. Having survived near death experiences as a young soldier in Nigeria’s civil war, he joined his older brother in New Jersey in 1974 with a high school diploma and $5 in his pocket.
In 1981, he took a part-time position as a contract parking attendant at Saint Peter’s and later as a full-time security guard, a position from which he worked his way to assistant manager of security to director of hospital safety and security. In 1991, he broke new ground and formed an inter-disciplinary diversity committee that studies the needs of various populations. The initiative led to active cross-cultural and interfaith programs that promote understanding and deliver culturally sensitive care to the diverse communities served by the hospital. In 2006, a committee of senior hospital leaders decided that his background was the perfect preparation for director of diversity and community outreach. Today those efforts have evolved significantly and have become a model. For example, the New Jersey Office of Minority and Multicultural Health named Saint Peter’s a “Best Practice” for its efforts to promote unity and education among diverse populations. Prior to that, the American Council on Diversity selected Saint Peter’s as the annual recipient of its “Corporate Citizen Award.” In 2015, the Central Jersey Community Development Corporation recognized Mr. Chukunta with the Chris Kjeldsen Community Service Award, and in 2017 he was honored by the Middlesex Regional Chamber of Commerce as a “Community Leader of Distinction.” In 2018, the Vulcan Pioneers of New Brunswick honored him with a “Community Hero” Award, and the NAACP, New Brunswick Chapter, recognized him with the NAACP Community Champion Award for Corporate Diversity.
Tab, as he is widely known, believes that he is nothing apart from Christ. Following a constant and gentle nudging of the Spirit he began theological education in 1996 after which he was ordained to the pastorate. He earned B.A. in Sociology from Rutgers University, M.A. in Public Communication from Montclair State University, M. Div. from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary and D. Min. from Drew University Theological School. He is the lead chaplain to the New Brunswick Fire Department and a Disaster Response Crisis Counselor credentialed by the State of New Jersey, Division of Mental Health/Antiterrorism
He and his wife, Ukwuoma, have five children and six grandchildren.