A Defining Moment

Deborah C. Wright of Carver Bancorp sayssuccess goes beyond the surface

In February 2005, Deborah C. Wright, president and CEO of Carver Bancorp, holding company of Carver Federal Savings Bank (No. 1 on the BE BANKS list with $616 million in assets) was named chairman. For Wright, success has come in many forms, and it wasn’t until a tragedy struck that she began to define what it really meant to her. In a conversation with Caroline V. Clarke, editor-at-large, Wright shares a defining moment.

I was working like a dog, staying late night — sometimes all night — weekends, that whole crazy life. On a day-to-day basis, it was like boot camp. On the surface, it looked fine: the best clothes, going to Europe for vacations, spending money, and doing all the stuff that everybody else with money does. But I was so hollow inside.

The competition was about money, houses, vacations, much of which I couldn’t relate to. But I still thought that one day I would just sort of get in gear. Then one event just brought the whole thing crashing down.

Three years into this experience, I was preparing to go on vacation to St. Maarten. On the way out, I got a call from my mother telling me that my grandmother was ill. We were extremely close. So I called her, and I said, “Look, if you follow doctors’ orders, I’ll split my vacation and come back through Dallas on the way home.” She said that would be great.

So I went away, and on my way back through Atlanta for a plane change, my baby sister was at the airport. I said, “What are you doing here?” She said, “I’m going home for the weekend.” I said, “You just got to school three weeks ago.” (She was at Spelman College). And she had to tell me, standing there in the airport, that my grandmother had died while I was on vacation. It was just devastating.

When I got back to work the following week, I ran into my boss in the breakfast line and he said, “Well, how was your vacation?” I told him about my grandmother and — I kid you not — that man said to me, “It’s a good thing that’s behind you now.” That’s all he said and kept going. It stopped me cold. I said to myself, “Girlfriend, you are in the wrong place.”

I went home to my folks three weeks later to talk over my predicament, and I remember my father said, “Who are you doing this for? For us? We don’t care. You could be a street sweeper as far as we’re concerned.” My mother said, “We don’t even like you like this. We never see you, and you have an attitude when we do see you. Your face is breaking out, your hair is falling out. It’s nice to get expensive Christmas gifts, but that’s no substitute for the Deb we love.”

So that was that. And then the hard part began because then I had to figure out who was this person that I didn’t even

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