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Leader of Consequence: Not Your Average Banker

After struggling in business school, Owen May (Daytime MBA ’83) founded an investment firm & opened the doors to Fuqua students.

By Elizabeth Michalka — This article was originally published in the alumni magazine Team Fuqua.

September 09, 2010
Owen May

Owen May gave the commencement speech for the MMS Class of 2010.

When Lauren Stival first met Owen May (Daytime MBA ’83) she was “completely taken aback.” He was loud, brash, and challenging.

“He was not what I thought of as a typical banker,” says Stival (MMS ’10). But she soon discovered a purpose behind his bullish, no-nonsense attitude. May, a Fuqua Board of Visitors member, was testing Stival and her classmates, giving them a taste of Wall Street.

Stival worked for May as an intern at his company, MD Global Partners, LLC, an investment firm in New York. The internship was arranged through Fuqua’s Career Management Center. When asked how many interns he could take, May said “bring them all,” remembers Angela Eberts, Associate Director of Career Services. During their winter break, 17 MMS students, including Stival, huddled in May’s office.

It was Stival’s first experience working in finance, and she says, “Working with Owen gave me the best, most applicable experience. Without it, I don’t think my resume would even get a second glance, but I get a lot of questions about my work with Owen.”

Stival, who has a bachelor’s in cultural anthropology and linguistics, found her calling in finance during the new MMS: Foundations of Business program.

“Owen was the first person to really support me and believe in me,” Stival says. “At one point, I was worried about whether I could do this, and he said he had no doubts. He really helped my self-confidence.”

Perhaps it was because May saw a bit of himself in Stival. When May entered Fuqua to pursue his MBA, he had no business experience. His background was in biology and medicine.

“I fell behind real quick—the fact that I didn’t have any work experience was detrimental. I didn’t know a thing about business. I couldn’t grasp the concepts, I didn’t know the language,” May says. “I was just waiting for them to kick me out, but to my surprise, they didn’t.”

After mid-terms, Professor Emeritus Wesley Magat pulled May into his office and gave May his full support.

“He said, ‘We accepted you, and we’re going to keep you.’ For somebody to take a genuine interest in me like that was unbelievable. I didn’t think anyone cared whether I graduated or not,” May says. “Fuqua came through for me when the chips were down. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and they gave me the confidence that I needed. I’ve been grateful for that ever since.”

With help from his professors, May realized he had a knack for finance—much like Stival. About 10 years later, he founded May Davis Group (recently renamed MD Global Partners), and since then, he’s helped dozens of Fuqua students gain much-needed experience.

For 27 years, May has also been a strong champion for Fuqua’s diversity initiatives. And, most recently, he was chosen as commencement speaker for the MMS Class of 2010. For all his efforts, May received the 2009–10 Charles A. Dukes Award honoring alumni who go above and beyond the call of duty to support Duke.

Speaking of his extensive involvement, May says, “Everybody took care of me while I was down, and this is my way of giving back. I had nobody to help pave the way for me. I’m just trying to help pave the way for today’s students so they don’t have to go through the same headaches and the pain that I had to go through.”