In Gratitude for Earl Graves, Sr.

I am saddened at the passing of Earl Graves, Sr., a legend in the lives of so many Black Americans, and an instrumental person in mine. The first issue of Black Enterprise — the publication started by Earl Graves — hit the newsstands in 1970, which also was the year that I graduated with a bachelor’s degree. At that time, I didn’t know anyone who worked in business. Businesses were not hiring Black American men or women in significant roles. Most professionals I was aware of were either the local doctor, lawyer, minister or teacher. While these roles were obviously important, they were not what I was looking for. I wanted a business career.

Black Enterprise opened the eyes of a generation to the few successful role models who were emerging, and the wide variety of opportunities that could be available to those of us who sought them. The publication provided insights and clarity into the possibilities in the world of business.

It continues to amaze me that someone I read about, in a publication so influential, became a friend, colleague, fellow Board member and avid supporter of my ascension to chairman and CEO of Aetna.

Generations were awakened and educated by Black Enterprise; and for that and many other things, we owe Earl a huge debt of gratitude. May he rest in peace. My condolences to the Graves family.