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Louis Jordan, Indiana '80, says there are too few African American mentors in business today.

Louis Jordan: Too few African American mentors in business

Jordan’s path from business school, through Starbucks and Nike, has persuaded him to be the kind of African American mentor he did not have.

It’s a long way from the home of a Baptist minister in north Philly to the Sonoma County wine country in California, where Louis Jordan owns a vineyard. He couldn’t have made that journey without The Consortium and some African American mentors — something he says is in too short supply today.

“The wine business isn’t the natural outcome of someone whose father was a Baptist minister,” Jordan conceded in an interview with The Consortium. But one thing sort of led to another. He started collecting wine in 1990. During a break from the workforce, he took a wine executive class at the University of California, Davis, in 2002.

“I didn’t know what would become of that,” said Jordan, a member of The Consortium’s Eagle Club. “I did it as sort of an avocational interest.” By 2006, he’d reaped his first harvest at Tympany Vineyards. Today, he’s a vintner, an investor and one of those African American mentors he says the business world lacks.

The Pace of Change in Diversity

Jordan’s background includes long stints in corporate finance for major corporate players such as Gap Inc. and Nike, as well as startups such as the now-defunct Webvan. He spent eight years at Consortium corporate partner Starbucks, retiring as a senior vice president. He only sees “a handful of African Americans in key executive roles.”

Jordan himself was the highest ranking African American executive when he left Starbucks in 2013. The same was true at Nike when he left in 2006.

“I don’t think it’s changed all that much over the years,” Jordan said. He says there are too few organizations offering the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder, get developmental opportunities and move to the executive suite.

“They’re not terribly different from when I got out of B-school,” said Jordan, who earned his MBA from Indiana University-Bloomington in 1980 as a Consortium fellow. “The challenge is still the fact that we are underrepresented. What that means from a mentor standpoint is that our mentors are unlikely to be people of color.”

Why Join the Eagle Club?

Today, Jordan participates in a number of entrepreneurial and investment-oriented organizations, in addition to his vineyard. He has been working with a 22-year-old entrepreneur on an alumni engagement startup, for example, and a few other ventures he’s not ready to discuss yet.

He works on the board of RocketShip Education, a nonprofit network of public, elementary charter schools that “takes underprivileged kids and provides them with an education that’s commensurate with what many private school students get.”

Jordan also serves on the board of the Indiana University Foundation, a $2 billion operation. All this, he says, because “I’ve been able to acquire some wealth” and it’s important to give back.

“I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today, I wouldn’t have the degree of success I’ve had in terms of management and moving up the ranks without The Consortium,” said Jordan, who has been among the organization’s top-tier of donors for years.

He calls Wally Jones an early mentor, one he spoke to often about the concept of giving back. He had the same conversations with Bill Mays, another Indiana/Consortium fellow and longtime benefactor who died in 2014.

“I believe we should be philanthropic and we should be giving back,” Jordan said.

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