GCDS News - Magazine

As future leaders, if you want to run a company of over a trillion dollars with 15,000 employees around the world or to be successful in whichever career path you follow, you need to connect. And to connect, Mrs. Duckett told students, you need to “get proximate.” She suggests that to truly connect, we need to take a step beyond what is seen on the surface—gender or melanin for example—we need to be curious, dig a little deeper. “The surface is not where you start, you ask a few questions, and you connect.” She promises, it won’t take long to find common ground, creating an opportunity for unity in achieving common goals.

Students, faculty, and staff were inspired by a series of talks on May 13 with President and CEO of TIAA Thasunda Brown Duckett. She is one of only two black female CEOs currently leading a Fortune 500 company. Mrs. Duckett and her husband Richard Duckett, a member of the GCDS Board of Trustees, are parents to GCDS students Madison (G10), Myles (G7), and Mackenzie (N). Their oldest son, Brendin Duckett, is a University of Virginia graduate.

Mrs. Duckett introduced herself and pumped up her student audiences with her changemaker song, “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys, challenging them to identify the song that they play to inspire them when they are getting ready to make an impact. As she shared the elements that empowered her story, Mrs. Duckett encouraged students to use their platform—starting now—for impact and purpose.


Mrs. Duckett emphasized the power of information, giving credit to a couple that told her about Inroads, a program that gives minority students exposure to Corporate America, which changed the course of her life. She told students, “When you know something, give it away freely.”


As part of the Inroads program, Mrs. Duckett interviewed for an internship with Fannie Mae. There was one opening and the recruiter from Fannie Mae selected another young woman. However, without any particular incentive, benefit to herself, or power of position, she told her superiors, “But there is this other girl.” That year, Fannie Mae hired two interns. Due to the power of advocacy, Thasunda Duckett’s career was launched. She advised, “you don’t have to be a CEO to have impact; you can be an advocate now.”


During a business trip to New York with Fannie Mae, a mortgage company president was impressed with a bold response from Mrs. Duckett to a question he posed. The president took notice and offered her a position with JP Morgan Chase. She disrupted her life to move to New York, where she rose through the company to become CEO of Chase Auto Finance, then CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, and now, President and CEO of TIAA. She shared, “you never know when it will be your shot; answer boldly, confidently, and authentically.”