Bill Lewis.
Bill Lewis.

Lazard Executive Supports Posse’s Mission, Leads in Business

Fall 2020 | National

Bill Lewis is the managing director and co-chair of investment banking at Lazard, a financial advisory and asset management firm. He has been a member of the Posse National Board of Directors since 2018.

Bill grew up in Richmond, Virginia, with his parents and two younger siblings. With a father who was a roofer and a stay-at-home mother who later worked as a housekeeper, he describes his upbringing as “solidly working class.”

“I spent my first nine years in the Richmond public school system,” he says, noting that it was a primarily African American environment, even in the aftermath of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which officially ended segregation in public schools. “Virginia, particularly Richmond, really tried to implement the whole concept of separate but equal. And we had a great education, I must say.”

“Posse is in 10 different cities across the country—you’ve got grit and you’ve got scale.”

Bill left home in eighth grade to attend the prominent boarding school Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He was recruited to attend Andover by A Better Chance, a leadership and education access program founded in 1963. He would later spend years on the organization’s board, including a term as chair.

“What I’ve learned through A Better Chance, and what I learned through four years of being at Andover, is that there are no 14- or 15-year-old kids that that don’t have baggage,” he says. “Every kid has some sort of challenge.”

After Andover, Bill attended Harvard University, where he graduated with honors. In 1982 he received an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Bill was elected a managing director of Morgan Stanley in 1989, becoming the firm’s first African American to assume the position. Between 1994 and 2004, he was head or co-head of the firm’s Global Corporate Finance Department, the Global Mergers & Acquisitions Department and Morgan Stanley Realty.

Since joining Lazard in 2004, Bill has advised a number of global corporations including American Express, Boeing, Procter & Gamble and Xerox. He chairs the firm’s Global Investment Banking Managing Director Promotion Committee.

“These kids are incredibly motivated and incredibly determined.”

Bill was introduced to the Posse program by Posse Board member Charles Phillips, the chairman of the board at Infor.

“These kids are incredibly motivated and incredibly determined,” Bill says, describing the defining qualities of Posse Scholars. “And Posse is in 10 different cities across the country—you’ve got grit and you’ve got scale.”

“Bill’s decades of professional experience, skilled leadership, and keen understanding of educational issues make him an invaluable member of the board,” says Posse President and Founder Deborah Bial. “We’re lucky to have him on our team.”

Pointing to the organization’s more than 30-year track record, Bill says Posse’s unwavering focus on student strengths and its impact is what resonates most with him.

“Posse defines people based on their merit, as opposed to a deficiency,” he says. “When Posse sends a cohort of 10 kids to a campus together, that’s a life-changer and certainly unique to any organization that I’m aware of in this country.”