Alumni Wilson Johnson III (’89 finance and marketing) and Clay Douglass (’76 accounting) are launching an African American alumni group at the Moore School.
“I was sitting at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and saw that UofSC was initiating diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives,” Wilson Johnson said. “I decided I wanted to create a group specifically in the Moore School that focuses on mentoring for minority business students, jobs and internships for recent graduates and scholarships for minority students. Our focus is to align with the Moore School’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
When he was enrolled at UofSC, Wilson Johnson said he received support from the TRIO office through the Upward Bound and Opportunity Scholars programs before and while he was a student that ultimately helped him succeed and go on to have a fulfilling career.
Before he was a UofSC student, Wilson Johnson’s family once lived in Ward One in Columbia, South Carolina. Ward One was a predominantly African American neighborhood that once stood where the Moore School, UofSC Coliseum and the surrounding buildings are now.
“As a Ward One descendant, I know the value of community and how the bond of those relationships are lifelong, even though the once thriving neighborhood was replaced with urban renewal in the 1960s,” he said. “My mother, Beverly Bell Johnson, and my aunts Carrie Bell Tucker, Deloris Bell English and Joanne Bell Burns were instrumental, along with others, to keep the memories of Ward One, their bond and spirit of togetherness alive.”
Wilson Johnson wants to honor the memory of the neighborhood by creating this new African American alumni group within the Moore School.
Wilson Johnson and Douglass have been working closely with Moore School faculty and staff and UofSC administrators over the past year to further develop the program. Those individuals include Moore School Dean Peter Brews; Bobby Donaldson, director for the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at UofSC and a history associate professor whose research focuses on Southern history and African American life and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries; Julian Williams, UofSC’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion; and the group’s steering committee.
Wilson Johnson said the main goal of the organization is to mentor minority students during their time in the Moore School and assist them in finding different jobs, internships and scholarships that are available to them.
“I want to implement a program where Black students and Black alumni can communicate and help each other by sharing information through webinars, seminars and business forums and panelist discussions,” Wilson Johnson said.
The alliance also wants to assist the Moore School with recruiting more African American faculty members and students. Another major goal of the new group is to mobilize the alumni network to support funding of Moore School initiatives and scholarships for underrepresented students, steering committee member Lloyd Johnson said.
As the steering committee continues to finalize the details of the Black Alumni Alliance, Wilson Johnson said his main reason for pursuing this idea is because of the invaluable skills and knowledge that he gained from the Moore School.
“The Moore School allowed me to get hired as an insurance consultant and hone my skills on the job,” he said. “My return on investment was exponentially rewarding. I have significantly more business relationships and have had more business opportunities because of my affiliation with the Moore School.”
Wilson Johnson said he hopes that when the Black Alumni Alliance officially launches, it will help develop minority students and African American alumni into great and impactful business leaders where they can improve and enhance their communities. The group launched in fall 2021.