05 Apr 2018
50 Years After King
Business icon Ann Fudge on the moment that changed it allTopics:
Photo by Rebecca Hale
In a recent interview in National Geographic, Ann Fudge (MBA 1977)—former chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam and a longtime corporate leader—spoke about the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the current racial climate, and communicating across the divide.
Fudge was a junior in high school on April 4, 1968, when King was assassinated, and one of four black girls from a class of 100 in Washington, DC.
In the days that followed, while standing outside a Rhode Island Avenue convenience store waiting for her grandfather, an armed guardsman pointed a bayonet at Fudge’s chest and asked her if she knew a curfew had been declared. The shop owner and her grandfather rushed outside to vouch for her, but the experience left an indelible mark. … Fudge made a commitment to excel in all that she set out to accomplish. She went on to attend Simmons College and Harvard Business School, becoming one of the top women business leaders in America.
With the kind of clarity that crystalizes over a lifetime of reflection, Fudge says that moment “was a driver for me personally to make a difference and to do something different.” In time, the article notes, she rose through the ranks to become one of the most influential women in business. Beyond her leadership at Young & Rubicam, she led a $5 billion division of Kraft Foods. Today, in addition to extensive board work, Fudge is a dedicated philanthropist, with a focus on education and youth.
Her own five grandchildren, she notes, are often on her mind these days. Primarily, Fudge hopes they are spared the challenges and divisiveness she experienced as a teen. Still she remains optimistic that change will come. “It can’t happen unless and until we get to a point where it’s not just black folks talking about it among themselves or white folks talking to each other,” she says. “The challenge is that it’s a global issue in every country.”
Class of MBA 1977, Section D