Earl Graves' Greatest Investment

Black Enterprise Magazine celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, a golden commemoration of the authority on all things concerning Black business. From its 100 Biggest Black-Owned Companies list to the profiling of Black people pioneering in the space, the accomplishments of Black Enterprise and the other businesses Earl Gilbert Graves established are all part of an impressive legacy in the Black American experience.

But his greatest accomplishment was his investment in his alma mater, Morgan State University.

The Graves School of Business and Management has graduated thousands of Black students at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels of business and administration. The school’s honors program, which also bears his name, separates the elite among this group who go onto esteemed roles in entrepreneurship, training, and leadership.

Graves earned his degree from Morgan in 1958 but regularly visited the school throughout his life and into his later years. One of his last public appearances came at the grand opening of the new home of the Graves School, the Morgan Business Center in November 2015.

The Graves School is one of only 5% of business schools in the world accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and it is among the top 1% with accreditation in management and accounting education. The school ranks among the top HBCU business schools in the number of graduates, highest employment percentage and the average salary of graduates, and those who go on to complete graduate school.

The education at the Graves School is rigorous and challenging, but among the most rewarding experiences that a student can have while pursuing an education in business. The dean, department chairs, faculty, and staff look like us, speak like us, teach like us, but more than anything, they believe in us. We are nurtured, and not surprisingly, well prepared for career placements in global corporations like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Ernst & Young, Marriott International, and hundreds more. 

There is a culture of pride and achievement in being a student and graduate of the Graves School, both on campus and within the corporate world. You can’t help but imagine that this culture that was once infused within the halls of the old George H. McMechen building and exists today blocks away in the new business school facility, because of the energy and confidence that a young man from Brooklyn, NY brought to northeast Baltimore more than a generation ago.

He became an essential storyteller in our community, bringing attention to the idea of Black people having seats in racially homogenous workplaces and C-Suites. He single-handedly raised the profile of Black entrepreneurship in the United States and around the world, and made the prospects of minority-business owners a little easier in securing lucrative contracts and positioning the power of the Black dollar as a driver of the American economy.

His legacy of telling this story is vitally important, now more than ever. We reflect not only the personal success of the man but the products of his investment in young Black men and women who graduate from Morgan State. Their names may never reach the same fame which Graves himself achieved, along with the hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who realized dreams, created jobs and opportunity and set examples for their own communities because of his publication, but we all should be fortunate for the places he traveled through his business savvy, creativity, and love for Black people — because where he went, he took us all with him.

It’s imperative that we model this legacy. Giving our finances, time, and access towards building a new generation of leaders will not only help us to individually come close to what Graves did but to exceed it. His life is a call to action for all of us to build a living legacy that lasts and impacts for generations. As we say goodbye and a job well done to Mr. Graves, let us also celebrate his life by supporting and applauding his career’s greatest achievement, the investments made in the Earl Gilbert Graves Sr. School of Business and Management at Morgan State University.

Orze Killgo is a 2016 graduate of Morgan State University’s Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management.