BE Modern Man: Meet “Mr. Empowerment” Vaughn L. McKoy

Name: Vaughn L. McKoy, JD, MBA

Age: 48

Profession: Attorney, Speaker, Author, Mentor

Social Media: Twitter: @VaughnMcKoy | Facebook: TheMcKoyGroupLLC

One Word That Describes You: Authentic


What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”

I’m motivated to give back to local communities in which I live, work, and worship. I am a longtime leader of nonprofits, serving as a board member for regional organizations, including Rutgers University, UNCF, The Boys and Girls Clubs of New Jersey, and Mentor New York, to name a few.  As co-chair of the New Jersey Leadership Council for UNCF, our team has raised millions of dollars for scholarships to help get kids to and through college. My affiliation with the Clubs and Mentor New York has led to great programming and services that are transforming the lives of young people and mine, too, as a mentor to some. What’s really been a blessing is to see Playing Up: The Coaches’ Playbook and Teaching Resources, an academic workbook and companion to my memoir, be implemented in several New Jersey traditional and charter public schools. Through the generous donations of friends, 5,000 books were donated to Paterson Public Schools, which is the district that provided my primary education. I receive emails, letters, posts, and texts from students, teachers, and others who were touched in some way by my story.

What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?

It means that investments made by the selfless people mentioned in my autobiography, Playing Up: One Man’s Rise From Public Housing To Public Service Through Mentorship, are yielding dividends. The mind-set and strategies that I learned from them put me on the path to success from inner-city Paterson, New Jersey, and Eastside High School (“Lean On Me”) to the United States Attorney’s Office and beyond. My inspiration to empower people to live better lives emanates from gratitude and not recognition. However, as a human being and an African American male, it is very humbling and encouraging to know that others, including Black Enterprise, recognize that my work and life matter. Finally, as a Black Enterprise subscriber and reader for over 25 years, I have perused many articles listing men and women of excellence in business, law, and government and wondered how those lists are derived. Now I know.   

What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?

Mentorship changed my life. It helped me survive the streets and escape the seemingly inescapable cycle of drugs, crime, prison, and death that trapped young people, especially African American boys during the rise of crack-cocaine and HIV/AIDS. Over the course of my life, many men and women have played crucial roles in my development at various stages. From little league coaches, to elementary and high school teachers, to professors, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and clergy, each in their own way left indelible impressions that contributed to my rise from public housing to public service and beyond through mentorship. It really does take a village.

What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others? 

Vulnerability. Everything is not alright all the time, so take off the masks. The first step to establishing a deeper connection and relationship with others is to slowly expose our humanity in meaningful ways that teach and heal. Relationships with depth and substance cross this horizon and flourish over time because there is no judgment, just love and respect for sharing. I recognize that this level of intimacy is not without risks, so discriminate and choose wisely. Too many of us, especially men, carry a burden that was never meant to be carried alone, and it is killing many of us literally and figuratively. 

What are some immediate projects you are working on?

It’s been busy. Wearing my corporate hat, I’ve been fully engaged in transforming the work culture at our company with others in executive management. The result are impressive. I auditioned and was selected to give a TEDx talk on a theme that’s very important to me, Diversity and Inclusion – Embracing Our Differences to Change the World. As a follow-up to my memoir, I look forward to releasing my new book, Rookie: 12 Keys for Mentees to Build Successful Mentoring Relationships. In this sports-themed allegory, I illustrate a successful mentoring relationship between “Rookie” and his new mentor, an effervescent business mogul known as “Doc.” Through Rookie and the action steps that follow each chapter, readers/mentees develop twelve key “success plays” to build valuable relationships with mentors to enable them to triumph in both work and life.

 What is the best advice you ever received?

Loyalty above all else but honesty.

What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?

Do what you can, where you are, and with who and what you have. Others will be grateful.

How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?

As a former trial lawyer and prosecutor, I was trained to prepare, prepare, and prepare for a client, witness, adversary, judge, or jury. I believe the same is true for a business meeting or an event. What does that preparation look like? Researching to understand and master the facts, as well as the need(s) to be met. Anticipating challenges that may arise and how to counter them, rehearsing and practicing until the subject matter becomes an extension of who I am, and then trusting that I did all I could to influence an outcome.    

As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation? Share a story about your best vacation.

I try not to wait for vacation to unwind, although the extended time does help. As the O’Jays sang many years ago, “I love music … any kind of music.” Depending on the mood, I can navigate seamlessly through genres and pairings that would highlight my eclectic tastes in music. To unwind at home or away, I often listen to my favorite songs with great anticipation and discover new inspiration, motivation, or just head-bopping, soulful beats, rhymes, melodies, grooves, or riffs that leave me shaking my head. A few years ago, a good friend hosted a trip for 10 couples to a five-star resort in Anguilla to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary. It was magical, an all-white party, vow renewal, and private fireworks on the beach, and quality time with good people, many of whom we met for the first time on that trip. No fakes, no phonies, and definitely not forgettable. 

If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? 

South Africa. I’ve met a few people from there and everyone who’s been there that I know speaks highly of it. The history of it is not lost on me either.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Obviously, none of this would be possible without God and the Christian values and faith that have lifted me through challenging times and sustained in seasons of blessings.  Also, my wife of 26 years, Marnie G. McKoy, a renaissance woman in her own right, has been riding “shotgun” with me while managing our home, her career, and entrepreneurial pursuits. Lastly, my three awesome kids who allow me to be their dad and share me with so many others. Thank you!


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Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.