University names Carla Harris 2021 Laetare Medal recipient
Observer Staff Report | Monday, March 15, 2021
Notre Dame will award the 2021 Laetare Medal to Carla Harris — business leader, gospel singer, speaker and author — at the commencement ceremony May 23, a press release announced Sunday.
Harris currently serves as the vice chairman of wealth management and senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley and is on Harvard University’s and the Walmart Corp’s boards.
“Harris began her career at a time when very few of her colleagues were Black or women, and her trajectory has been steadily ascendant,” the press release said.
From 2005 to 2014, Harris was chair of the Morgan Stanley Foundation, and in 2013, President Barack Obama appointed her to chair the National Women’s Business Council, which serves the president, Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Throughout the course of her career, Harris has worked to promote women and people of color in business. She helped create Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab and oversees the company’s multicultural client strategy as a whole.
Harris is also an accomplished gospel singer. She has her own band called the Rhythm Company, and she has released multiple albums and produced and performed benefit concerts at Carnegie Hall and Apollo Theatre. Harris began singing when she was nine years old at a fourth-grade talent show.
Harris said she lives by the mantra, “never count yourself out,” and coaches others to motivate themselves by what others say is impossible. Harris is also committed to helping others in any way she can.
“We are blessed so that we may be a blessing to others,” Harris said in the release.
In her books “Expect to Win” and “Strategize to Win,” Harris detailed her pathway to career success.
Harris was born in Port Arthur, Texas and grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. She graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1980 with honors and went on to attend Harvard University. Harris graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics and received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School with second-year honors.
Harris married Victor Franklin, her high school sweetheart, at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Harlem in 2001. The two have two daughters, Dakota and McKinley.
The Laetare Medal is an annual award given by the University to recognize an individual who has displayed remarkable service to the Catholic Church, academics and society.
University President Fr. John Jenkins praised Harris as this year’s recipient of the award.
“Throughout her exceptional career, Carla Harris has exemplified the highest ideals of American enterprise, championed the principle that opportunity should never be denied on the basis of gender or race and generously mentored countless rising leaders,” Jenkins said. “Enriched by her gifts as a singer and public speaker, her work in the competitive world of banking is firmly rooted in her commitment to service, developing the next generation of leaders and her Catholic faith.”