In 1984, at 28 years old, Carla McGuire, ’90, was a single mother raising two children on her own without a college degree. None of her siblings had gone to college, but she knew she needed to push ahead in her education if things were going to get any easier for her and her family.
“I realized I was going to have to provide for myself and my children for the rest of my life. And I knew I didn’t want to get out of bed every morning to put on a pair of pantyhose and make $15,000 a year. I wanted my children to be able to go to college too, and to have an easier time of things than I did,” she says.
After two years in a junior college, she enrolled in Maryville’s Weekend and Evening program in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in information systems with a minor in accounting. She was already working at a bank and enjoying the accounting duties that were a part of her job. Her primary work was to set up and maintain some new gadget that suddenly everyone seemed to have on their desk – personal computers. Her work ethic and determination began to pay dividends around the office.
“Folks found out that I had half a brain and they just kept giving me work to do,” she says.
Increasingly that work was more weighted on the accounting side and she eventually switched her minor to finance. She eventually earned an MBA from Saint Louis University and continued to rise quickly through the ranks. All told, she spent 14 years working in banking.
McGuire eventually accepted a position as director of investments at the University of Chicago and later as chief investment officer for DePauw University. These days, her business card reads “partner” for the newly merged Mercer Hammond Investment Consulting firm, where she has been for nearly two years.
In her current role, McGuire provides investment management services to universities for their endowments. Such large investment portfolios aren’t handled by rookies or people pretending to know what they’re doing. That’s part of what guides McGuire’s firm-but-objective philosophy of leadership.
“I really try to lead by example and I give people a lot of leeway, but I normally have very professional staff I’m working with. I assume that people are fully capable of doing their jobs—until they prove to me that they can’t,” she says.
McGuire gives a nod to a long line of helpful, influential bosses over the years when it comes to her management style.
“I’ve had wonderful mentors in my bosses. As a matter of fact, I thought one of them was so wonderful, that in later years I married him,” she says.
And when she isn’t in the office working as a consultant for colleges and universities trying to manage their endowments, she most wants to be at home, especially when some of her 14 grandchildren are around.