10 Successful Black Executives Who Attended HBCUs
Will Packer, the Million-Dollar ‘ATL’ Movie Producer
Filmmaker and producer Will Packer is a graduate of Florida A&M University and the founder of his own million-dollar production company. Packer has produced a number of notable TV shows and movies, including “Think Like a Man Too,” “Ride Along (both 1 and 2),” “Stomp the Yard,” the 2016 reboot of “Roots” and upcoming film “Girls Trip.” The Atlanta producer also was featured on Black Enterprise’s “Most Powerful Players Under 40 List.””
John W. Thompson, the Software and Tech CEO
Fort Dix, Texas, native John W. Thompson earned his bachelor’s in business administration from Florida A&M in 1971. A former vice president of IBM, Thompson now serves as the CEO of privately held Virtual Instruments and the chairman of Microsoft. He also is the former CEO of software company Symantec.
Oprah Winfrey, the Multibillion-Dollar Media Mogul
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey attended Tennessee State University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in communication. Winfrey was both the youngest and first Black female TV news anchor at local Nashville station WALC-TV. She continued her career in television and nabbed her very own talk show in 1986. With a net worth of $2.9 billion, Winfrey is an accomplished host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. She’s the acting Chairwoman and CEO of Harpo Productions and CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network.
In January 2017, it was announced that she would be brought on as a special contributor for CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
Earl G. Graves Sr., One of the Most Outstanding Minority Businessmen In the U.S.
Branching out from the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in his hometown of Brooklyn, Earl G. Graves, Sr. attended Morgan State University, where he earned his bachelor’s in economics in 1958. Graves was thrust into the public eye following the release of the inaugural issue of Black Enterprise magazine in 1970, shining a spotlight on the publication’s founder. In 1972, he was recognized as one of the 10 most outstanding businessmen in the U.S. Today, Graves serves as CRO of Earl G. Graves, Ltd.
Dr. Deborah A. Cole, Head of One of the Oldest Black-Owned Banks
As a graduate of Tennessee State University, Dr. Deborah A. Cole holds the title of president and CEO of Citizen’s Bank, one of the oldest Black-owned Banks still in operation. With her leadership, Cole sparked an increase in the bank’s assets of 5.6 percent in 2016.
Evelyn Smalls, CEO of United Bankshares Inc.
Evelyn Smalls attended North Carolina Central University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in business. Smalls has served as president and CEO of West Virginia-based United Bankshare’s Inc. and its subsidiary United Bank of Philadelphia since June 2000, helping the banking institutions develop its outstanding community reinvestment model. The model has since received high ratings from both the Federal Reserve and FDIC. Smalls has over 20 years’ experience in banking and community development.
Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, the Bad Boy of the Music Industry
Music producer Sean Combs briefly attended Howard University but never made it across the stage. Combs left during his sophomore year and went to intern with Uptown Records. The young producer was later fired, but went on to found his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment. The label started with just two artists — Craig Mack and Biggie Smalls — but grew to become a hip-hop empire.
Janice Bryant Howroyd, the First Black Woman to Build a Billion-Dollar Company
Janice Bryant Howroyd serves as the CEO of ACT•1 Group, the nation’s largest Black female-owned business, and is the first Black woman to own a billion-dollar company. A graduate of North Carolina A&T, she has spent the past 30 years steering the global enterprise through tough economic times. The staffing and workforce solutions company employs over 1,300 people in 240 satellite offices in the U.S. and eight other countries.
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