Stanley Grayson '72: Mentoring with a New York State of Mind
By Elizabeth Walker
Stanley E. Grayson '72 (right) divides his distinguished resume into "three wonderful careers." He has been a corporate attorney, a deputy mayor of New York and an investment banker. His work life tells the narrative of someone who, from an early age, was determined to follow academic and career paths that would offer him wide-ranging opportunities in the years ahead.
"I grew up in Detroit in an intact, loving family, but I wasn't exposed to a lot of people going to college," Grayson says. "I saw some great high school athletes go to college and come back to be gym teachers or coaches. Those are honorable professions, but it seemed as though that was all we were able to do at that point in time. I knew that my interests were elsewhere." Along with consuming interests in books and basketball, Grayson was intrigued at an early age by the prospect of a career in the law.
"I think what I liked most about the law was the flexibility it seemed to give people in their lives," he says. "As I read biographies, it was surprising to see how many people in business, government and the like had law backgrounds. It seemed to be a road that had a lot of opportunities and options, and I was looking to make sure that I had as many options in life as possible."
A highly recruited high school basketball player, Grayson was interested in Holy Cross because of some familiar names, including Bob Cousy '50 and Tom Heinsohn '56 P79. His friends didn't understand why, among his many offers, he accepted the athletic scholarship from the small, liberal arts, (then) all-male college in Worcester, Mass.
"My friends had never heard of Holy Cross," he says. "Somehow I knew that it was the right place for me. One thing that impressed me as a 17 year old-and still impresses me today-is the caliber of the Holy Cross alumni I met. The Holy Cross people seemed to be a cut above."
Grayson came to Holy Cross in 1968 at a pivotal time in the history of the country and the College. In the months following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. John Brooks, S.J., '49, president emeritus, then a theology professor, spurred an ambitious effort to recruit more African American students to the school. In fact, he drove to urban high schools along the East Coast to meet personally with prospective students. Though Grayson did not meet Fr. Brooks before enrolling at Holy Cross, he made lifelong friends among many of the other minority students Fr. Brooks' efforts had attracted to the campus.
Fr. Brooks was featured in a 2007 BusinessWeek article that focused on Grayson and four of his classmates and dormmates who today have high-powered careers in different fields. The bond among those five men (including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas '71 and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones '72) and many other students at Holy Cross at that time, is the subject of a new book, Fraternity, by Diane Brady-the book will be published in January by Random House. [Read an exclusive excerpt from Fraternity in this issue, starting on page 32.]
"I'm excited about the book coming out," Grayson says. "I've spent a lot of time in conversation with the author. It's going to be a wonderful tribute to Fr. Brooks. He was the glue to the minority community and to Holy Cross. I'm hopeful that the book highlights that fact and his efforts in great detail. He's a very special person."
On the court, Grayson earned praise for his defensive skills, and was always called upon to guard the opponent's top scorer, including the legendary Julius Erving of UMass. A starting forwardfor three years and captain during his last year with the Crusaders, Grayson was also a top scorer and rebounder, and was named Crusader of the Year in 1972.
After graduating from Holy Cross, Grayson received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. He joined the law department at Metropolitan Life Company before becoming New York City's deputy mayor for finance and economic development in Ed Koch's administration. (He served in several roles under Koch from 1984 to 1990.) With a move to Goldman, Sachs & Co. in 1990, Grayson began his career in investment banking and finance, breaking the color barrier among Wall Street executives. He later joined Prudential Securities, and today is vice chair and chief operating officer of M.R. Beal & Company, an African American-owned, New York-based investment banking firm that specializes in municipal finance, corporate finance and equity execution.
"My plan was to live in New York for a few years after law school, then return to Detroit to settle down," Grayson says from his Wall Street office. "I've been here more than 30 years and can't imagine living or working anywhere else."
Grayson's love for the City began during a summer internship at a New York law firm between his second and third years of law school. The late William D. Doino '60 P87 helped him secure the job, and Grayson now does the same for others through his passionate support of the Holy Cross New York (HCNY) Leadership Council's Summer Internship Program. In fact, Grayson has been named the 2012 honoree for the HCNY Leadership Council's annual fundraising event in New York next May.
"I don't gravitate toward honors and awards, but I greatly respect the work the Leadership Council is doing for Holy Cross students," Grayson says. "We have participated in the internship program at M.R. Beal for seven years. I also agreed to be the honoree because the College has given so much to me, and it's difficult for me to say 'no' to Holy Cross."
Birthplace: Chicago (raised in Detroit)
Residence: New York, New York
Family: Wife, Patricia M. Grayson; daughter, Lauren, 26; and son, Stephen, 23. Patricia is the vice president for development at the Children's Aid Society in New York.
Year inducted into the Holy Cross Hall of Fame: 1991
Major at Holy Cross: Economics
Q&A with Stan Grayson:
In addition to your demanding day job, you are vice chairman of The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey's board of commissioners, a member of the board of directors of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) and on the boards of TD Bank and New York Catholic Charities, among others. How do you do it all?
My criteria for saying 'yes' has evolved. I think it's a great honor and a huge responsibility to be asked, but you can't do it all. I first look for things that I care about and that contribute to my intellectual, spiritual or emotional well-being. I served on a museum board because I knew nothing about art.
A long time ago I made this commitment to my wife: to join a new board, I have to resign from another board. That promise has helped me to say 'no' when I like to say 'yes' to organizations.
You have a reputation for being a terrific manager. What is the secret to managing people successfully?
Being a manager is lot like being an athletic coach. The first step is to know your employees and to understand the strength and weaknesses of each member of your staff, so you can help them be better at what they do. Each of them plays a role in the team's success. I played team sports my whole life. That's why I stress the importance of teamwork. I tell my employees that good teams beat good players all the time. If we're a good team, we'll win more than our share.
What advice would you give to young alumni just starting their careers?
The key to success is to put yourself in a position where people rely on you. People will rely on you if your work is accurate, complete and timely. You advance in the business world by always doing more.
What would you do with the extra time if you suddenly had 28-hour days?
I'd definitely put time into my golf game and into some intellectual pursuits, like studying philosophy and reading. Time to read comes at a premium for me, given the combination of long days and very tired eyes at the end of those long days.
Photo by Matthew Atanian