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Want to diversify the world’s boardrooms? Start in the classroom

Longtime Carey Business School volunteer John Hunter is a driving force behind its new Leading a Diverse Society Initiative
Posted October 26, 2017
  • "Underrepresented minorities have to have a place at the table, not only to be part of the changes that will advance our society but to lead them," says longtime Carey supporter John Hunter (center).

  • Carey Dean Bernie Ferrari (left) called on Hunter, a member of his Dean's Advisory Council, to help develop and raise funds for the Leading a Diverse Society Initiative.

  • Carey Professor James Calvin (right), a former director of the Leadership Development Program for Minority Managers that Hopkins offered for two decades, greets LDP alumni at the new initiative's launch on Oct. 21.

One Saturday afternoon in the early 1990s, John Hunter did a favor for a couple of colleagues. At the request of Ackneil Muldrow and then-program director Carole Lyles-Shaw, Hunter, a senior vice president for Citibank, volunteered to speak with students in Johns Hopkins' nascent Leadership Development Program for Minority Managers. Although he expected to be the "teacher," he found himself learning some surprising truths.

"Students were asking questions like, 'What do I say if I bump into the company president in the hall, and he says, "Hello"?'" Hunter recalls. "At first I thought, 'Wow, that’s kind of a mundane question.' But then I realized the seriousness of the situation — if they were asking me questions this simple, what else don't they know?'"

That epiphany sparked Hunter's two-decade tenure as one of the Leadership Development Program's (LDP) most fervent proponents — even after it closed in 2013. In partnership with Carey Business School Dean Bernard "Bernie" Ferrari, and in keeping with Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels' Ten by Twenty vision to cultivate a diverse and inclusive community across the university, Hunter helped develop Carey's new Leading a Diverse Society Initiative. The school launched the initiative in October at a special event before more than 100 guests, many of them LDP alumni.

"At the Carey Business School, we believe that a diverse school is positioned best to lead a diverse society," Ferrari says. "Carey aspires to be a school community that truly embodies the values and characteristics of a global society."

"This new initiative is largely John's conception," says James Calvin, a Carey professor who directed the LDP from 2000 to 2013. "Dean Ferrari asked him to help develop an idea, and John sought my input, but the big plan that is now being executed came from John Hunter."

The Leading a Diverse Society Initiative, Calvin says, isn't a recreation of the LDP, which was a nine-month, cohort-based certificate program for minority professionals in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. region. Instead, the new initiative will draw from the expertise, professional connections, and financial support of its predecessor's successful alumni to provide "wrap around" enrichment for underrepresented minority students, supplementing their Carey degree programs.

Hunter, a member of Carey's Dean's Advisory Council, has long devoted all three of those resources to Hopkins business students, chairing the LDP's board of advisors; providing internship opportunities at QVC, Inc., where he served as an executive vice president; and making gifts to support student financial aid, including establishing the John and Dolores Hunter Family Scholarship. But in laying the foundation for the Leading a Diverse Society Initiative, he needed to encourage many others, particularly LDP alumni, to do the same thing. 

"There was a sincere bonding that went on in the LDP. People who went through the program networked and helped each other. They experienced something very important together that changed their lives," Hunter says.

He identified a core group of former students — several of whom have gone on to become leaders in global board rooms and all levels of government. He reached out to them to gauge their interest in recruiting students, serving as mentors, and making gifts for scholarships.

"The response has been amazing," says Hunter, noting that the group has already exceeded its $450,000 fundraising goal to support the new initiative's first three years. Leaders in the Baltimore business community have also pledged their support. "They've been asking, 'What's the strategy? How will this work? What can I do?'"

Several alumni took their first action steps by attending Carey's Diversity Weekend for admissions, which culminated with the reception marking the Leading a Diverse Society initiative's launch. Over two days, Hunter and LDP alumni delivered addresses, spoke on panels, and networked with prospective students.

"Underrepresented minorities have to have a place at the table, not only to be part of the changes that will advance our society but to lead them," Hunter says. "It's important that Hopkins, which has a gravitas in higher education, can produce these kinds of leaders for the world's businesses."

To learn more about the Leading a Diverse Society Initiative or to make a gift to support Carey students, please contact Greg Bowden, associate dean for development and alumni relations.