Our Stories

Trailblazer for Diversity

Amy Jorgensen Conlee, one of Morgan Stanley's first female managing directors, pays it forward.

Amy Jorgensen Conlee
Owner, Jorgensen Company

Vanderbilt MBA 1977

Amy Jorgensen Conlee wasn’t the first woman to earn a degree from Owen, but it’s not like there’s a long line before her. When she enrolled in 1975, six years after the school opened, she recalls that there were only five women among a class of approximately 40 students.

Nor were there many women in investment banking when she graduated in 1977. But Conlee became one of the first female managing directors at Morgan Stanley after she joined the firm’s New York office.

In very tangible ways, Owen helped her get there. It started with financial assistance. “I didn’t have any financial resources, nor did my family,” Conlee recalls. “My scholarship made the difference in which business school I attended.” 

She credits her finance professor at Owen, Jim Davis, with equipping her with the knowledge and skills she needed. “Because of him,” Conlee says, “I felt totally prepared to work at Morgan Stanley and compete with top people from the top schools.”

Conlee also received assistance directly from Owen’s dean, Sam Richmond, who came to Vanderbilt from Columbia University in time for her second year. Though investment banking firms did not yet recruit at Owen, Richmond gave her names of industry people he knew in New York, which helped open doors.

Conlee’s career success only deepened her commitment to diversity. In 1990, she and her husband created a scholarship to support women in the MBA program. More recently, they also established the Cecil and Amy Jorgensen Conlee Diversity Scholarship to support women from underrepresented groups. 

“Having been in business so many years, I believe every organization is significantly improved by diversity,” Conlee says. “That’s one reason I feel so strongly about it today.”