Skip to Content

Darla Moore School of Business

  • Image of Dominique Gray in front of a golf course

Turning adversity into ambition

PMBA student pursuing lofty career goals while giving back to those in need

Professional MBA candidate Dominique Gray ('24 expected graduation PMBA, ’12 USC hospitality management) is no stranger to adversity. In 2015, his childhood friend TyWanza Sanders became the youngest victim of the Mother Emmanuel AME Church Massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.

Rather than let the tragedy break him, however, Gray used the memory of his friend as inspiration to co-found nonprofit Race 4 Achievement, Inc., which helps underprivileged youth in the Carolinas pursue higher education. 

Since the organization’s founding, Gray said the organization “has awarded $16,500 worth of scholarships, mentored over 50 high school students, fed and clothed over 2,000 neighbors in need, donated over 300 bookbags full of school supplies and coached three AAU basketball teams. Undoubtedly, this PMBA program will continue to assist me in turning tragedy into triumph for the communities in the Carolinas.” 

In addition to running his own charity across two states, Gray was also the youngest individual (since a 2013 eligibility re-evaluation) to obtain the Club Management Association of America’s (CMAA) coveted Certified Club Manager (CCM) designation in 2019 before pursuing his MBA.

At that point, he had obtained an impressive array of awards, honors and publication features despite initially being told by a general manager that striving for such awards and accomplishments was “too ambitious” and even “impossible” for someone like Gray, who had only been in the hospitality management industry for a few months.

Gray, who lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, decided to pursue his MBA to strengthen his “professional skill set and become a more versatile business professional and philanthropist.”

He went on to explain that, at the time of his acceptance into the PMBA program, “my career trajectory was becoming a chief operating officer or general manager of a golf or country club. However, I aspired to transition my career in golf and country club operations to that of a corporate role within the industry.”

After having a positive undergraduate experience at USC, Gray knew USC’s Moore School was also where he wanted to obtain his MBA.

“I chose USC for my PMBA because of the pride which came with being a graduate of such a storied and highly decorated business school and the flexibility to learn while still pursuing my career,” he said. “Though Florida has many great programs, none compare to the Darla Moore School of Business.”

Gray said the PMBA program has already exceeded his expectations and provided him with continuous support as a fully remote student.

“Every professor is extremely knowledgeable in their given field of study and do an amazing job communicating,” Gray said. “Most importantly for remote students, they have been extremely flexible in respects to in-person assignments.” 

Gray also described how the program has helped him overcome some of the initial “imposter syndrome” he struggled with during his transition into his new career path.

“My participation throughout the PMBA program — the knowledge gained, support from professors and staff and a GPA which reflects my success and competency — has reaffirmed my professional confidence,” he said.

Gray said his career transition aspirations came to fruition when he was hired in February 2022 by Troon, a global leader of golf and club management services, as their director of business development.

He said he was selected by the company “not only for my acumen as a club professional but also my commitment to furthering my education; talk about the Moore School being a competitive advantage!” 

Gray has big plans for the future. In the next 5-10 years, he said he sees himself “still employed at Troon in some form of leadership role, whether it be a VP, regional manager or something else,” he said. “I foresee Race 4 Achievement expanding its scholarship opportunities and communities reached far beyond what we set out to do in 2015.”

Embodying the meaning of “Forever to Thee,” Gray said he’d also like to teach as an adjunct in USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management in the future; he also hopes to be a family man and live closer to the Carolinas.

-Sydney Hankinson

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.