Twenty years ago, nearly 300 first- and second-year Consortium students gathered at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta for the 30th Orientation Program & Career Forum. In addition to being a “round-number” anniversary for The Consortium, several other events made it a milestone year.
Phyllis Scott Buford had assumed the role as The Consortium’s third leader. Wallace L. Jones, the second leader, had just retired. Luminaries from Consortium schools, companies and the alumni community gathered to thank and honor him for his service. And in Wally’s honor, The Consortium awarded its first Wallace L. Jones Fellowship, a tradition that has continued through the ensuing 20 years.
“Under your stewardship, The Consortium has matured from a concept at Washington University to a multimillion dollar organization which boasts an impressive array of graduates,” Joy wrote.
Later in his 1996 letter, he included this eerily contemporary remark: “In an era where our government seems increasingly more concerned about partisan politics than the welfare of our children, The Consortium stands as a shining example of how academia and business can work together to make a dramatic impact upon our society.”
‘Even More Critical Now’
Today, after a career that’s carried him from IBM, to Goldman Sachs, to New York Life, Joy is now an owner and regional director for Weitz Investment Management, a boutique money management firm based in Nebraska.
“It’s easy to say because The Consortium has been around since 1966, and because of the level of success these graduates have had, that the problem of diversity has been solved,” Joy said during a visit to The Consortium’s headquarters Aug. 23. “But I don’t think it has. We’ve made progress. But the mission of The Consortium is even more critical now. We’ve societally become complacent.”
He points at recent examples from Ferguson, Dallas, Baton Rouge and his home turf of Milwaukee as examples of simmering racial discord that as a community, he believes we’re not addressing openly.
“We find ourselves in a place where we have some hard questions we have to ask ourselves societally,” he said. “Unless you try to continually and proactively think about issues, you assume everything is OK. Certainly, recent events suggest everything is not OK.”
Beyond that, organizations such as The Consortium have contributed to building a pipeline for people of color to enter Corporate America, but companies aren’t doing enough, Joy said, to hang onto them. Retention is a huge problem.
“You’ve got to figure out how to keep people there to have active and vibrant careers,” he said.
Take the Opportunity or You’re Fired
Joy worked for IBM for seven years before the itch to get his MBA overtook him. Originally considering a part-time executive MBA program, friends turned him on to The Consortium and he reconsidered. But even when the fellowship offer came, he hesitated. “It was a huge decision to leave my career, leave Milwaukee,” Joy said.
His girlfriend at the time—now his wife, Susan Joy—helped persuade him The Consortium was a once-in-a-lifetime chance he couldn’t pass up. His boss was even more persuasive: “He said, ‘If you don’t take this opportunity, I will fire you.’ Both of them recognized the importance of this opportunity even before I did.”
Now, Joy mentors students and early-career professionals regularly. He and his wife have funded a scholarship targeting African American students at his undergraduate alma mater, Carnegie-Mellon University (which became a Consortium school after he graduated) in the name of his mother, Sandra Crawley. And he volunteers on the board of the Milwaukee chapter of City Year, which provides diverse tutors and mentors to keep students in school and on track.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re reaching back,” Joy said. “As someone who has reached whatever level of success I’ve had, it’s an obligation to figure out how we can reach back and broaden the conversation we’re having.”