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Deborah Wright

Bank executive Deborah C. Wright was born in 1958, in Bennetsville, South Carolina to Harry C. Wright. Wright received her B.A. degree from Radcliffe College and earned a joint M.B.A and J.D. degree from Harvard University’s School of Business and School of Law.

After college, Wright worked as an associate in corporate finance at First Boston Bank. Finding the position unsatisfying, Wright left the bank in 1987 to take a position as the director of marketing for a building project in Harlem for The New York City Partnership, a business advocacy group in New York that promotes affordable-home ownership. In 1992, New York City Mayor David Dinkins appointed Wright to the New York City Housing Authority Board. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani promoted her Commissioner for Housing Preservation and Development in 1994. From 1996 through 1999, Wright served as the director for the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation, a post that would give her tremendous experience in bringing together community, civic, and private-sector interests to revitalize blighted urban areas. In 1999, Wright was named chief executive officer of Carver Bancorp, the parent company of Carver Federal Savings Bank and the largest African American-owned financial institution in the United States. Wright was chosen for her talents in coalition-building among business, government, and community leaders. Wright immediately began a successful program to revitalize Carver's balance sheet and made it a key player in the rising economic fortunes of Harlem. In 2005, Wright was named chairman of Carver Federal Savings Bank.

Wright is a member of the board of directors of Time Warner and Kraft Foods. She is a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard University and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Wright was honored as "Community Banker of the Year" in 2003 by The American Banker, the financial industry's daily newspaper. She is also involved in the missionary activities of the American Baptist Churches.

Accession Number

A2008.128

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/7/2008

Last Name

Wright

Maker Category
Middle Name

C.

Schools

Bennettsville Intermediate School

Murchison School

Thomas L. Marsalis Elementary School

William Hawley Atwell Law Academy

David W. Carter High School

Radcliffe College

Harvard Business School

Harvard Law School

First Name

Deborah

Birth City, State, Country

Bennetsville

HM ID

WRI05

Favorite Season

Summer

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

Is That Right?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/30/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Indian (Chicken And Rice)

Short Description

Bank executive Deborah Wright (1958 - ) was chief executive officer of Carver Bancorp and chairman of Carver Federal Savings Bank. She also served as New York City's Commissioner for Housing Preservation and Development, and as director of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation.

Employment

Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.

Elliot House- Harvard University

Davis Polk and Wardwell

Chase Manhattan Bank

Dallas Legal Services Foundation, Inc.

First Boston Corporation

Partnership for New York City

New York City Planning Commission

New York City Housing Authority

Cabinet of the Mayor of New York

Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation

Carver Bancorp, Inc.

Favorite Color

Salmon

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639535">Tape: 1 Slating of Deborah Wright's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639536">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639537">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639538">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright talks about segregation in Bennettsville, South Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639539">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright talks about her relationships with her paternal relatives</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639540">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright talks about her father's upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639541">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright recalls her transition to the all-white Murchison School in Bennettsville, South Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639542">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright talks about her mother's experiences as a minister's wife, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639543">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright talks about her mother's experiences as a minister's wife, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639544">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright describes her mother's upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639545">Tape: 1 Deborah Wright describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639546">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639547">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright describes her community in Bennettsville, South Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639548">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639549">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright lists her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639550">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright talks about her father's career as a pastor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639551">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright describes her early personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639552">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright talks about the Murchison School in Bennettsville, South Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639553">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright remembers her family's move to Dallas, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639554">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright remembers organizing a walk out after the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639555">Tape: 2 Deborah Wright recalls her experiences of school desegregation in Dallas, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639556">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright remembers the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639557">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright recalls her father's role in the desegregation of the Murchison School in Bennettsville, South Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639558">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright talks about her experiences of school desegregation in South Carolina and Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639559">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright describes the demographics of the Oak Cliff community in Dallas, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639560">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright remembers her social activities at David W. Carter High School in Dallas, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639561">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright describes the effects of school desegregation in Dallas, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639562">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright talks about her early influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639563">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright remembers her college applications</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639564">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright remembers her decision to attend Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639565">Tape: 3 Deborah Wright recalls her introduction to racial discrimination in the North</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639566">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright describes the support from her paternal aunt, Marian Wright Edelman</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639567">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright talks about her transition to Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639568">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright talks about the black lunch table at Harvard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639569">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright remembers meeting Strauss Zelnick</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639570">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright talks about the black experience at Harvard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639571">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright remembers her social activities at Radcliffe College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639572">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright recalls the impact of attending Radcliffe College on her home life in Dallas, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639573">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright remembers her siblings' college graduations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639574">Tape: 4 Deborah Wright recalls how she came to study at the Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639575">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright describes her influences at the Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639576">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright remembers the mentorship of Professor Malcolm S. Salter</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639577">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright recalls her challenges at the Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639578">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright describes her summer internship during her time at the Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639579">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright talks about her experiences as an African American woman at the Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639580">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright remembers her transition from law to investment banking</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639581">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright recalls her initial struggles with investment banking</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639582">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright remembers how she came to join the Partnership for New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639583">Tape: 5 Deborah Wright describes her role at the Partnership for New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639584">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright describes the Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Program</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639585">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright recalls her appointment to the New York City Planning Commission</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639586">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright describes her work at the New York City Housing Authority, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639587">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright describes her work at the New York City Housing Authority, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639588">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright remembers the scandals surrounding her predecessor at the New York City Housing Authority</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639589">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright describes her role at the New York City Housing Authority</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639590">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright recalls her appointment as the deputy housing commissioner of New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639591">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright reflects upon her achievements in the housing sector</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639592">Tape: 6 Deborah Wright remembers working for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639593">Tape: 7 Deborah Wright recalls the resistance of New York City's Legal Aid Society</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639594">Tape: 7 Deborah Wright remembers her support from New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639595">Tape: 7 Deborah Wright remembers joining the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639596">Tape: 7 Deborah Wright talks about the redevelopment of New York City's Harlem neighborhood, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639597">Tape: 7 Deborah Wright talks about the redevelopment of New York City's Harlem neighborhood, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639598">Tape: 7 Deborah Wright remembers negotiating with the community in New York City's Harlem neighborhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639599">Tape: 7 Deborah Wright remembers the financial problems at Carver Bancorp, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639600">Tape: 7 Deborah Wright recalls her transition to Carver Bancorp, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639601">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright describes her strategy as the CEO of Carver Bancorp, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639602">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright remembers appointing a new board at Carver Bancorp, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639603">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright describes the new direction of Carver Bancorp, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639604">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright talks about the role of Carver Bancorp, Inc. in New York City's Harlem neighborhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639605">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright talks about Robert L. Johnson's strategy for black banking</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639606">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright remembers adopting her daughter</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639607">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639608">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639609">Tape: 8 Deborah Wright reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639610">Tape: 9 Deborah Wright talks about the importance of institutions in the African American community</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

9$9

DATitle
Deborah Wright remembers her decision to attend Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Deborah Wright describes her role at the Partnership for New York City
Transcript
Then the real drama began because my father [Harry S. Wright, Sr.] really was putting his foot down about me going to Spelman [Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia] and I jokingly said in one interview that I knew he was desperate when he offered to get a, get me a car (laughter) if I, if I stayed in Texas or went to Spelman. So and, so this kind of ratcheted up to a little bit of a confrontation. So finally he said, "You know, the whole family is gonna be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to send you to Radcliffe [Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts]." So my mother [Joan Bell Wright] was in that, in the room in that discussion. So I went to my room and I remember her coming in and closing the door and she said, "Okay, what do you wanna do here? Do you really wanna go to Radcliffe?" And I said, "Yeah, I really, I really do." She said, "You're sure?" I said, "I'm sure." She said, "Okay. You're going. And we're not gonna be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so, not to worry. I'm gonna take care of this." So she left and so she called my dad's mother [Maggie Bowen Wright] (laughter). And so it was sort of like, he said what? You know, so his mother called my Aunt Marian [Wright's paternal aunt, HistoryMaker Marian Wright Edelman] and so all of a sudden he is Attila the Hun because all the women of the family are calling in saying, "She's going to Radcliffe. What are you thinking?" Right. And so anyway it was done. The, the ladies took care of business. And it took a while for us to talk about that but it wasn't until I'd say two or three months into the Radcliffe experience that I, that I understood where he was coming from. And he was really afraid of his baby going off to an experience that he knew was not gonna be full of what I expected. I thought that I was gonna be breaking free from the low expectations of the South, and that for the first time I was gonna just be a smart kid and I could just focus on learning, no drama, no low expectation, just be there with the other kids who were smart kids and not having to either pretend you're not as smart as you are or the racial climate and all of that. And, you know, it, the truth is, there's a different kind of racism in the North but it's still very much present. And he thought that that would be a heartbreaking experience and he thought he was gonna break me from that but the reality is, you know, you do have to left your--let your kids learn these lessons on their own, on their, on their own.$Now, had you saved money that you could take that pay cut so (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Um-hm.$$--you, 'cause you're making, you were making a lot of money?$$And not spending it really. And I moved back home, my parents [Joan Bell Wright and Harry S. Wright, Sr.] were living in Brooklyn [New York] at that time, so I let my apartment go 'cause that was the biggest expense I had. And I had banked my bonuses and all of that. And so I felt, listen, I was so miserable it didn't matter what I got paid. And they were embarrassed to, but it was, the job they had was to go to Harlem and put together a sales office for a development called Towers on the Park [New York, New York] which was the first major development done in Harlem in over thirty years. And so the irony was all this insecurity I felt about, you know, computers and calculators and everything so what did I have to do? My boss sent me up there and here's your budget, hire a sales team, get the computers, bought a, you know, the HP 12Cs. I had to teach everybody 'cause it's not like anybody, the sales team was from the community, I was, you know, the one negotiating the deal with the banks that were doing the in loans for the homebuyers. So here I was, it was finance but in a completely different context. And so over, over time I kind of licked my wounds and it was, once I was in something that I really loved, I came to the epiphany that I did really love finance, I just didn't love it in the context that I was in. And it was ironically that experience was where I met the then president of Carver Federal Savings Bank [Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association, New York, New York], Mr. Greene [Richard T. Greene, Sr.]. I met all of the political leaders and the people who would ultimately be very important in my career. And I think the best touche moment was when the development was finished and we had to bring the, you know, the important people by to see it, I got to escort David Rockefeller through the building which, you know, if I had stayed at First Boston [First Boston Corporation, New York, New York] the rest of my life I would have never met him and there are many other people. So, you know, my mother had this phrase, "What's for you, is for you," and she said that very frequently. And it was really about you ultimately have to figure out what makes you tick and get there and that takes time.$$Now, you said you did that a year, just--$$Three years.$$Three years (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Um-hm.$$I was gonna say--$$Yeah, three years.$$Okay. I was gonna, so you're--$$So this is 1990--$$Right.$$--when I'm ending up at the partnership [Partnership for New York City, New York, New York].$$Okay. So you're, and the partnership had been formed in what year?$$The mid-'70s [1970s].$$Mid-'70s [1970s].$$Um-hm.$$Okay. So and who had been the, who had, you said the founder had been--$$David Rockefeller (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) David Rockefeller.$$Um-hum.$$Now, who was head at the time that you--$$It was a woman by the name of Ellen Sulzberger [Ellen Sulzberger Straus] who became a mentor also. Her family was the family that owned The New York Times. And she was a wonderful woman. And I'll tell you some stories about her but she was classic, she was, actually I wanna say, real New York [New York] but she also, she and her husband [Peter Straus] were, were very politically involved and they had homes in Washington [D.C.] and in New York.