The Georgiana and Ira Platt Scholarship: An Investment in Team Fuqua

This story begins more than 20 years ago, when Ira Platt MBA '91 and Georgiana Overall MBA '91 each decided to pursue an MBA at Fuqua.

After four years developing tools for traders in international markets, Ira was seeking the business background he needed to expand his career. Georgiana had been working in international banking and wanted to transition to a career in marketing.

During his first day of orientation at Fuqua, Ira met Georgiana.  The two attended events together and spent late nights in the library during the rigorous first semester. Eventually, they started dating.

Their class was a tight-knit group of talented people from different backgrounds. They built lasting friendships and business networks. The Platts were one of seven couples from the class who married. They graduated in 1991, in the midst of a recession.

Ira landed a job in asset-backed securities, working his way up through the ranks to serve as executive vice president. After six years, his company went public, and Ira moved to RBS Greenwich Capital. In 2009, he co-founded 221 Capital.

"We have a fairly big business with considerable exposure," Ira said. "It has been a great business development opportunity, and it all stems back to the skillset I built at Fuqua."

Since Fuqua, Georgiana has worked as a consultant in marketing research, switching from the service side to the manufacturing side of sales marketing. With two kids, consulting was a meaningful way to accommodate both family needs and work.

The Platts have kept in touch with Fuqua over the years and are active in their community. Georgiana frequently volunteers with nonprofits and has served on several boards.

"We try to give back any way we can," Georgiana said. "It's a healthy way to thank the people and organizations who contributed to what we have now. We try to lead by example and instill a sense of philanthropy in our kids. We were looking forward to the time we could give to Fuqua in a meaningful way."

When Fuqua was engaged in a capital campaign to build Breeden Hall in 2006, development officers talked with the Platts about naming a team room in the new building.

"Team rooms are a building block for Fuqua's focus on teamwork," Ira said. "In a lot of classes, we broke into small teams to work on case studies or other problems. Since Fuqua, my career has been highly transactional with a small team approach. There's an obvious parallel between the type of study we did at Fuqua and the actual work that goes on in the business world - work is done in small groups and presented to a larger audience. "

As a scholarship recipient, Georgiana also was well-aware of the key role financial support plays in whether a promising student will choose Fuqua over another school. The Platts ultimately decided to build Team Fuqua by creating an endowed scholarship.

"The best way to enrich the Fuqua education is to attract students from all backgrounds who can handle the scholastic challenge, "said Georgiana. "Scholarship assistance helps the school to recruit the best candidates. For us to help Fuqua give someone the opportunity to go to the school is an investment in this person, Fuqua and our network. It's rewarding to pay it forward for someone else to experience what we did."

Tricia Appiah, who was seeking a well-rounded, robust education and an opportunity to catapult her career, is precisely the kind of student in which the Platts were aiming to invest.

After graduating from George Washington University, Appiah entered the world of consulting. A few years into her career, she wanted to expand and enhance her skills to include a more in-depth knowledge of strategy. As a school that is well-established in the consulting space but also gives students a strong foundation in general management, Fuqua was at the top of Appiah's list.

"Like most business school students, I didn't have ample cash flow that would cover my full education and cost of living," Appiah said. "So while Fuqua was my top choice, other programs were offering me full scholarships. When Fuqua offered financial support through the Georgiana and Ira Platt Scholarship, it made my decision much easier."

At Fuqua, Appiah focused on strategy and finance. But her time in the classroom was just the beginning of her experience at Fuqua. She spent her Fuqua career taking advantage of as many student activities and travel opportunities as possible.

Through the Global Consulting Practicum (now called the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum), Appiah studied South African business and culture and then traveled to South Africa to work with a nonprofit, NOAH. She also completed a two-week study abroad program in Chile.

"I got to explore different cultures and different ways of doing business," Appiah said. "The world is becoming more and more global, so the opportunity to experience business and life in different parts of the world greatly enhanced what I was learning in the classroom."

At Fuqua, she participated in the Association of Women in Business. In the Private Equity Club, she acted as the student liaison between the club and other clubs at Fuqua to co-sponsor events, plan activities, and connect with other graduate programs at Duke to inform their students of private equity events. As the treasurer of the MBA Association, Appiah managed and distributed budgets for the MBAA Cabinets and all Fuqua student clubs.

The Business in Africa Club was one of Appiah's favorite organizations. The club didn't exist at Fuqua prior to her first year, so she was able to contribute in an especially meaningful way as the organization grew and developed. The club hosted speakers from different parts of Africa to expose students to African business and culture. Through this group, Appiah and the Business in Africa Club earned awards for their accomplishments, including Student Club of the Year at Fuqua and Club Presidents of the Year.

"I didn't want to look back and say, 'I wish I had participated in that,'" Appiah said. "I was intentional in my efforts to be involved in student activities while maintaining my academics and staying well-rounded in my personal life. I was able to do all of this because of the scholarship."

In October, Appiah begins work with Booz & Company in strategy consulting. She is well-equipped with a broad-spectrum understanding of how businesses work and make decisions, and feels confident in her ability to collaborate, lead teams, and improve companies.

Appiah plans to remain connected to Fuqua through activities like alumni networking events and the Duke MBA Workshop for Minority Applicants. She is committed to donating financially as well, which she began as a student.

"At Fuqua, I felt a sense of responsibility," Appiah said. "Someone invested in me to be successful, so I knew I needed to work hard, get good grades, stay involved, and give back to the community to make a positive difference. In the future, I will continue to give back through my time and resources. The investment isn't just for me. It's for the community as a whole; it's for Team Fuqua."

"We are proud to have made a deep commitment to the Fuqua community," Georgiana said. "If we can serve as an example to others, that's a great thing.  We're only helping one student at a time, but Fuqua provides a tremendous experience that enables its graduates to make a difference.  That one student may be the one who significantly impacts the world or her community—through banking, marketing, social impact, anything! Why wouldn't we give back?"