Elsie Y. Cross, 81, of Chestnut Hill, a consultant who helped bring about diversity in corporations, schools. and government agencies, died of a heart attack Dec. 7 at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Mrs. Cross was born and raised in North Philadelphia and graduated from Girls High School in 1946. In 1949, she earned a bachelor of science degree from Temple University, and then taught at Germantown and Olney High Schools.

At that time, conflict between gangs disturbed the peace at school. Mrs. Cross looked into the problem, said her son, Barry Jr., and for a while, tensions eased.

"She got a lot of that fighting to stop by bringing the kids together to talk to each other," Cross said. "She thought that if she could get the kids to stop fighting in schools, she could get the adults to stop fighting in organizations."

Mrs. Cross earned two master's degrees at Temple, in business administration and education psychology, in 1967, and went to work to realize her dream.

In 1977, she founded Elsie Y. Cross Associates Inc., a Philadelphia-based consulting firm that over 35 years guided organizational change. Her work gave minorities, gays, and women an increased role in organizations, her family said.

She conducted workshops for managers in which there would be lectures, explanations of why certain words were offensive, and simulated situations, her son said. She wrote and distributed "The Language Guide," a list of objectionable words, he said. In 2000, she wrote a book, Managing Diversity - The Courage to Lead.

Clients included CoreStates Bank and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Mrs. Cross was former board chair for the National Training Laboratories Institute for Applied Behavioral Science in Arlington, Va. She also was a founding member of the Women's Subgroup of the Organization Development Network, a professional organization in South Orange, N.J.

Mrs. Cross met her husband, Barry, in Washington, where they worked. They married in 1950 and divorced in 1955. He died in 1982.

Surviving in addition to her son are a grandson and granddaughter; a stepson, Kevin; a brother; a sister; and nieces and nephews. A longtime companion, Samuel Romans, died in April.

A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Jan. 16 at Ace Conference Center, 800 Ridge Pike, Lafayette Hill. Burial was private.

Donations may be made to NTL Institute, 1901 S. Bell St., Suite 300, Arlington, Va. 22202.

Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.