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Olin Alum Clarence Bourne Encourages MBAs to Stay ‘Grounded in Community’

Clarence Bourne understands that business isn’t just about making money. It’s also about doing something you enjoy.

“I know a lot of young people come into the business world wanting to make a lot of money, but it also has to be associated with something you like to do,” he says, “because if you’re not enjoying it or you’re not passionate about it, it’s going to limit your ability to be successful.”

A Consortium alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School, Bourne has enjoyed a 30-year career in municipal finance — specifically in banking, trading and underwriting. After 23 years at JP Morgan, he moved to Loop Capital Markets 14 years ago, where he still serves as managing director in the public finance division in the Chicago office. All impressive accomplishments, Bourne says what he’s most proud of are his non-banking-related contributions.

For him, that has meant giving away his greatest commodities — not just his wealth but, perhaps more importantly, his time and talent. Bourne currently serves on the board of the African American Museum of Philadelphia and is chairman emeritus of the DuSable Museum of African American History. He created a scholarship at his old grade school in his mother’s name and remains involved with other nonprofits, including the Chicago Summer Business Institute, which provides internships for inner-city, lower-income high school students.

It has also been important to him to give back to the organization that has done so much for him — The Consortium. For Bourne, that has meant paying it forward by repaying his fellowship, which he did within 10 years of graduating. “I have a lot of good memories about the whole experience, and I’m just happy to have been selected for it,” he says. “It changed my life.”

In addition to paying back his fellowship, Bourne has remained involved with The Consortium, helping advance its mission by spreading the word and sharing encouragement and advice. “I just wrote a recommendation for a young man this weekend,” he says, “and I tell everybody that I can about the organization, including my own children; my daughter just graduated from The Consortium.” For his commitment, Bourne was recognized by The Consortium with the Wallace L. Jones Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Despite the success and sense of fulfillment his career has brought him, this now-successful businessman — now inching toward retirement, Bourne notes — wasn’t always so keen on the idea of going into business.

“When I was deciding whether I wanted to go to law school or MBA school, I had an advisor tell me that, if I was feeling guilty about going to business school, I could always just give back, give the money away and help support my community,” Bourne says. “There’s nothing wrong with going into business, just make sure you stay grounded in your community. That’s sort of what I’ve lived my life doing.”

Q&A

Childhood ambition? To be a lawyer. I watched a lot of Perry Mason growing up (and still watch old reruns).

One of your greatest challenges? Staying true to my family and community while achieving success in the business world.

One of your fondest memories? The birth of my two children Christina and Clarence Jr., and my wedding day with my lovely wife Sharon in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Proudest moment? Receiving an MBA as a Consortium fellow from Washington University in St. Louis, receiving the Mary McLeod Bethune Award as the top Black graduate student at Washington University and receiving a BA from Northwestern University, with honors in African American studies and a double major in economics.

Favorite movie? Harlem Nights, a comedy with three of the greatest comedians of all time: Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx.

Something that makes you laugh? Good comedy.

Favorite trip? Easy! I just got back from Accra, Ghana. It was amazing to see where the difficult journey of my ancestors began; it was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I’ll never forget the smiling faces of the natives of Ghana welcoming me and my wife back home.

Secret talent? Event planning.

Latest impulse buy? Business Class airline tickets to Ghana.

Favorite book about business? “Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis.

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