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1st Consortium students: ‘Never even imagined’ business was a possibility

A business career in 1966 meant something very different to the African American men who became the first Consortium students.

For members of the first class of Consortium students in the mid-1960s, the notion of a business career involved running a barber shop or a funeral home. They only thought about small businesses. Anything that exclusively served the African American community.

“I didn’t think about big business and I didn’t think about having a career in big business because it just wasn’t there,” said Leon Todd, part of the first Consortium class in 1967. He received his MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It was something I never even imagined.”

Todd shared his insights and more as part of a sweeping hourlong video chat The Consortium hosted May 19 as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. The Google Hangout joined Todd with three Indiana University-Bloomington alums: Robert Lee, Charles Randall and Charles Vernon.

Successful Careers

After getting his MBA, Todd could imagine a big-league business career.

The Milwaukee man had a career that included several years of sales and marketing experience. Later, he joined Strategic Technologies Consulting as a strategic planning, marketing and public relations consulting partner.

The other three also had successful careers in business. Lee, of Austin, Texas, spent 38 years with IBM. Randall, of Clifton, N.J., also enjoyed a long career at IBM. Later, he started his second act, earning his primary school teaching certification.

Mason, of New York City, attended Columbia law school and worked as a managing attorney and partner in a law firm. Later, he ran his own law practice and served as CEO for a nonprofit. He’s since become an ordained minister and teacher.

Transformative Experience

“I can’t highlight enough how transformative it was for a professor we had not met, Dr. (Sterling) Schoen, who had basically conceived of something…that has literally changed corporate America,” Mason told viewers in the Google Hangout.

All four men said their reception on campus was great, though Randall said it was tinged with some apprehension.

“The reception at Indiana was excellent. It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “But I did have a little shock when I got there, when I learned two things. One, Bloomington had been a founding site of the Ku Klux Klan. And the Klan had celebrations throughout the year where they paraded quite openly. I didn’t know how to take that. And secondly, when I found out that the year we came to Indiana was the first year the student union was desegregated. Those two things were kind of a shock to me. But it didn’t have any bearing on the school of business itself. The seven of us did socialize, come together, work together, study together.”

View the entire hourlong chat above for more of their insights and visit our YouTube channel, where you’ll find more videos.

PLAYLIST: Highlights from the hourlong video chat with Robert Lee, Vernon Mason, Charles Randall and Leon Todd.

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