I was born in Memphis to an unmarried mother, the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers. She lived her life in poverty. She never finished the 8th grade. She had no aspirations for a career. Never married. But she loved me unconditionally.
In 1965, I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, downtown Memphis, TN. 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, and with a full fellowship to the Graduate School of Business, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
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. By the age of 35, I was President/CEO of Gateway National Bank, St. Louis, MO. Later, in Atlanta, I led a $12 million entrepreneurial development loan fund. I went on to create a capital development consulting firm, specializing in Regulation D private offerings.
In 2001, I went into early retirement at the urging of my 92-year-old father who had no one to care for him. Years later as a volunteer for Bell Community Services, I became aware of some significant challenges facing our public education system. This caused me to consider an encore career as a social entrepreneur.
I have experienced a wonderful, fulfilling career that would not have happened without that high school teacher intervention in my life. Today, I often think of that at-risk high school student with no direction, and my home room teacher who saw something valuable in me - and transformed my life.