2007 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumna Award
Maxine Brown-Davis ’74
In helping people realize their goals, Maxine Brown-Davis ’74 asks them to close their eyes and visualize the scenario of their success. Then she leads them through a visualization of her own. She describes the postman walking up the path to her house, ringing her doorbell, handing her a letter. She describes slitting open the envelope and her heart racing as she sees what it contains. She describes calling her co-workers at Procter & Gamble and telling them she won’t be in because she just won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.
The Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award may not be as financially lucrative as winning Publisher’s Clearinghouse, but it richly lauds Maxine’s personal and professional achievements. She has given 33 years-and counting-to Procter & Gamble, starting as a supervisor at the company’s manufacturing plant in Greenville, where she was the only female on site. African-Americans were new to P&G in the mid-’70s, and almost nonexistent in managerial ranks. Maxine had to break some new ground, but she stuck with it. Based in Cincinnati these days, she is vice president for global diversity and organization performance, heading a new initiative in human resources that sets policies for P&G’s 140,000 employees.
Breaking ground was nothing new for Maxine. As one of the first 100 or so blacks admitted to Carolina, she helped the University transition from the desegregation wrought by the civil rights movement to mainstream acceptance of black students. “We were the promise of the civil rights movement,” she said of her class.
Like the TV commercial for a wireless network that shows a crowd of thousands supporting a cell phone user, Maxine carries her own social and professional network around with her. Yolanda Gaylor, a friend and colleague at P&G, said, “Maxine helps everybody everywhere. Wherever you go with her, someone always stops and says, ‘Maxine? Is that you? You may not remember me, but I just think the world of you.’ ”
Donna Benita Moore ’74, who used to cook big breakfasts with Maxine in the dorm kitchen every Saturday morning, said, “If Maxine’s your friend, she’s your friend. You don’t have to bite your tongue around her. She’s a very good, down-to-earth person who’d give you the clothes off her back.”
Elayne Roberts, her friend since first grade, recalled the turbulent times of their high school years in Wilmington in the mid- to late ’60s. Maxine was one of the few students who had a car. On a day that something outrageous happened in the civil rights struggle, pandemonium broke out at the high school, and a physics teacher pulled Elayne and some of her friends into a classroom to keep them safe. All of a sudden they heard Maxine calling their names over the school intercom, “This is Maxine! Meet me at the car!” Elayne said, “We looked at the teacher and said, ‘Maxine’s calling. We’ve got to go.’ She got us home safely.”
Maxine said her mother, in her short life, raised her and her sisters to “leave any situation better than you found it.” She took that to heart. A strong “developer of people,” according to Pamela Chisholm ’73, Maxine has received several awards for her civic contributions and her motivational speeches and workshops. She has used her resources to help others at Carolina by supporting the Black Alumni Reunion since its inception, and as a founding member of the Light on the Hill Society Scholarship. She has orchestrated opportunities for alumni-owned businesses to provide revenue-generating services to P&G. Outside of the office, she works with a number of nonprofits and government agencies to improve operations, inclusive management approaches and strategic planning.
You might even say she makes people feel like they’ve won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.