I was born in Memphis to an unmarried mother, the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers who never finished the 8th grade. She lived her life in poverty with no career aspirations. But she loved me unconditionally.
In 1965, I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in downtown Memphis, TN. Until 12th grade, I was job-bound. (I had no resources for college, and my mother wanted me to graduate to get a good government job.) But, my senior year home room teacher told me that I was "college material" and, despite no resources or family support, I believed her! Thanks to her powerful intervention, I went on to college with an academic scholarship. Four years later, I graduated from Lemoyne-Owen College with a B.S in Sociology & Economics. With a full fellowship (Graduate School of Business, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.) I went straight to graduate school.
Two years later, as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and with an MBA in Corporation Finance, I was hired as the Executive Assistant to Odell Horton, then President of Lemoyne-Owen College. Thirteen years later, at 35 years old, I was President/CEO of Gateway National Bank, St. Louis, MO. I thought that was the best I could be. Not so! Later, in Atlanta, I created and led a $12 million entrepreneurial development loan fund. I went on to create a capital development consulting firm, specializing in Regulation D private offerings of securities.
In 2001, I went into early retirement at the urging of my 92-year-old sick father who had no one else to care for him. I became his full-time caregiver.
Years later as a volunteer for Bell Community Services, I became aware of some significant challenges facing our public education system. So, after my mother and father passed, I decided to develop an encore career. My mind ran back to that high school teacher whose intervention, when I was an at-risk youth, was the turning point in my life.