Finding my Posse
Like so many good things in life, I connected to Posse through a chance meeting. Our Sotheby’s head of Human Resources heard about Posse at a cocktail party and that led to my meeting Debbie Bial, Posse’s founder and still today it’s President and CEO. Posse grew out of a focus group of kids who had dropped out of college. One commented that he “would not have dropped out if I had had my posse with me.” Debbie, always a great listener, saw the germ of an idea and convinced a professor friend to get Vanderbilt to take a chance on a group of New York public high school graduates, a Posse, chosen not for their SATs but rather their leadership skills. The first Posse had five members. All five exceeded expectations and graduated in four years, several with honors and Posse was born.
In 1994, we formed the Posse Foundation, Debbie became the President and I became the first board chair, a position I held for 13 years. I continue as a Posse board member. Posse took off as we convinced more and more elite universities that these kids could do the work and become campus leaders. Today we recruit Posses in ten cities and they attend one of our 57 university partners on full tuition leadership scholarships. The Posse Foundation (see PosseFoundation.Org) has now sent 9,200 Posse Scholars to college earning an incredible $1.4 billion in scholarships. And remarkably 90% of them graduate.
Building the Posse board and partnering with Debbie Bial to shape and grow Posse has been my most important work. The scores of Posse scholars I have and continue to mentor give me joy beyond measure. Posse is not a program, it is a movement with the stated goal of changing the face of leadership in America to reflect the diversity of our country. Posse alumni, now in their 30’s and early 40’s, are taking on these leadership roles. One is the only Dominican American president of a four year university, Ithaca College. Others are partners in law firms, university board members, teachers at Yale Medical School and other major universities, and one woman is the principal owner and CEO of UWG, a leading multicultural ad agency.
Posse is proving that a broad definition of merit can identify leaders far better than SAT scores.
Along the way, Debbie Bial won a MacArthur Foundation Genius award and Posse is regarded as the leading college access program in the country.