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Dr. Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., the First Black CEO of a Fortune 500 Company

Dr. Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.

In 1987, Dr. Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. became the first black CEO and chairman of a Fortune 500 company. It was TIAA-CREF, a multi-billion dollar corporation that is the leading provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural, and governmental fields.

Dr. Wharton took great strides in his life up to that point, however. In 1943, Clifton Wharton "entered Harvard University at age sixteen where he received his B.A. degree in history in 1947," according to The History Makers.

After a long, seasoned career of assisting the Rockefeller family through his developed skills in economic development, Dr. Wharton served "as the Council associate in Malaysia from 1958 to 1964. He was the director of the Council’s American Universities Research Program and in 1967 was appointed vice president.

But he didn't stop there. In 1970, "Wharton became the first African American president of Michigan State University." He continued his passion in the business world for years before finally becoming the first black CEO of a Fortune 500 company, operating "the world’s largest pension funds holding assets of $260 billion."