A Shared Past, a Common Purpose

Mar 30, 2021 11:25 AM ET

These three employees, alums of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, are helping the firm support the next generation of Black students through our new Morgan Stanley HBCU Scholars Program.

For Alita Wingfield, Leon Henderson, Jr., and Malick Diop, it’s not enough to have just one diploma in the family from a Historically Black College or University.

Wingfield, a Managing Director in the Legal and Compliance division and the Head of the firm’s Compliance training program, attended Spelman College as an undergraduate and Howard University Law School; she married a fellow HBCU alum (her husband graduated from Morehouse College) and her daughter is currently a junior at Spelman. Diop, a Managing Director of the Financial Institutions Investment Banking Coverage Group, graduated from Morehouse in 2000, earned his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is married to a Howard alum. Henderson, a Managing Director in Wealth Management, holds a degree in architecture from Howard, where his daughter graduated in 2020, as well as an MBA from Harvard Business School.

All three say the experience of attending one or more of the HBCUs, 101 institutions across the country that were established before the civil rights movement to serve the African-American community, was transformative in ways they couldn’t imagine finding at any other college. “My son attends Harvard, but I was actually more excited when my daughter got into Spelman,” Wingfield says. “You leave there feeling like you can really conquer the world. I would not be the person I am today without Spelman and Howard.”

Adds Diop, “Building confidence and pride—the pride of being part of this amazing legacy—is a focus of these schools. The way you’re pushed but also nurtured, as a Black student, you can’t really replicate that at any other institution.” 

Growing the Legacy

Given their deep bonds to HBCUs, it’s not surprising that all three sit on the firm’s working group to develop and help oversee the Morgan Stanley HBCU Scholars Program. Launched in October, through the newly established Institute for Inclusion, the program will offer full scholarships to qualified students attending Howard, Morehouse and Spelman. Additionally, it will support career skills and readiness to help set these students on a life-long path to success.

As an initial investment, Morgan Stanley will provide five academic and needs-based four-year scholarships at each institution for the next four years; a new class of scholars will be added each year for a class size of 60 by the fourth year. The scholarships will cover the entire cost of attending the institution for each academic year and will be open to students across all disciplines and majors.

New Career Paths for Consideration

Henderson, whose daughter chose to attend Howard over other top universities, says that the firm’s HBCU alums have a practical, as well as emotional, reason to get involved: Many remain connected to their alma maters throughout their careers.  “A lot of us are already in touch with HBCUs, particularly around the effort to hire graduates to join our teams, so I give credit to the firm—I think it was a good call to have us work on this initiative.”

And, while the scholarships come with no strings attached—students are free to pursue whatever field they wish to after graduation—the three hope that the program will open a world of possibilities at Morgan Stanley for those who may not have otherwise considered a career in the financial industry.

“To provide greater exposure to students who don’t know about our industry is something that I’m very excited about,” says Wingfield, who notes that the financial sector as a whole could use more bright and talented Black graduates, like the ones who will be part of the Morgan Stanley HBCU Scholar program. “It’s an opportunity for us to recruit more diverse candidates and to get more diverse people interested in our industry, which lacks diversity in many different areas,” says Henderson.

Supporting the HBCU mission

Wingfield, Diop and Henderson also welcome the chance to support the schools themselves, which they believe offer Black students a unique experience that is particularly resonant right now. “To have professors who look like you, who truly care about your success, and other students who look like you, who are dealing with the same struggle and the same challenges is invaluable,” Wingfield says.

Notes Diop, “Every few years, the question comes up: Are [HBCUs] still relevant or vital? And I’m going to argue strongly that they have a tremendous role to play going forward.”

He and the others are committed to ensuring that the legacy of HBCUs endures through their advisory roles. Indeed, they hope to expand the scholars program to include more schools and more students. Says Wingfield, “As long as I’m at Morgan Stanley, I’ll be on the HBCU working group, constantly thinking about how to engage these students and how to make the program even bigger and better.”