Molly Ashby ’81 Inspires Students at “From DoG Street to Wall Street”By Leslie McCullough October 19, 2015
Inspiration, dedication and passion took center stage at this year’s “From DoG Street to Wall Street” keynote address by alumna Molly Ashby ’81, founder, CEO and chairman of private equity firm Solera LLC.
“Simply put, if you trust your instincts, stay true to your values, and put everything you have into what you are doing, you will inevitably surprise yourself in good ways, and find the right path,” said Ashby to more than 150 undergraduate students and guests gathered for the annual “From DoG Street to Wall Street” two-day event hosted by the Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance, Howard J. Busbee Finance Academy and Cohen Career Center.
“Each of you possesses qualities that define you. Relentlessly seek opportunities that both inspire and even terrify you,” said Ashby. “Founding Solera was the most honest decision I could make — in terms of being really true to myself. It has also proven to be one of the most gratifying things I have ever done.”
Ashby was one of the 40 alumni from a diverse set of financial institutions who braved tropical storm conditions to return to campus to participate in panel discussions and provide networking opportunities for current William & Mary students. Panelists covered topics including Finance 101, Strategy Consulting, Equity Research, Sales and Trading, Investment Banking and Private Banking.
“Each year I am blown away by how dedicated our alumni are,” said Julie Agnew ’91, associate professor of finance and economics and director of the Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance. “When flights were canceled, some drove and others waited for hours in the airport. It is only dedicated alumni who will race toward a potential Category 4 storm and it shows their great love for the students and school. It is events like this that make me so proud to be a graduate.”
Students certainly benefited from Ashby’s valuable insights.
“Most of you came here to learn something that will help you begin a career. I think careers and life are kind of merged, mine are indistinguishable,” said Ashby, who is chairman of Solera Sports, Beval Equestrian and Beval China, and Calypso St. Barth. She previously served as chairman of Latina Media and of Annie’s, the organic and natural food company. Ashby began her career as a trainee at J.P. Morgan & Co., ultimately becoming vice chair of the investment committee, chief operating officer, investment strategist and a member of the board of directors of J.P. Morgan Capital.
“Careers are full of ups and downs — it often takes years to build to your vision — but if you stay true to yourself, your values, and your dreams, you will find the journey a continuous source of inspiration and meaning,” said Ashby. Some of the other pieces of advice that Ashby put forward included: never lose sight or give up on your end game; have the discipline to be respectful, forthright and sincere in good times and in bad.
She also offered a window into the real world of the finance industry.
“You may be barraged with images of the financial industry as a soul-crushing world where every day, people are forced to betray their values,” said Ashby. “I would paint a portrait for you of an industry that propels progress, providing the capital needed to transform great ideas into real businesses that impact our world in a positive way and drive growth.”
Above all, Ashby encouraged students to use their time at William & Mary wisely.
“William & Mary is important to me because of relationships formed, enduring friendships and the ability to connect to my own heritage. That is why I am here tonight,” said Ashby. “Prize the great intellectual resources and the many people here who care about you. Ask yourself who and what you are, what your guiding principles are, and what matters to you. Even if you think you have that down, you will take it to a higher and sophisticated level by being here.”
“’From DoG Street to Wall Street’ provides a unique experience for students across the curriculum to learn from alumni in the field of finance,” said Kathleen I. Powell, assistant vice president, student affairs and executive director of career development at the Cohen Career Center. “Molly Ashby is a prime example of a William & Mary alumna who has parlayed her liberal arts education into a life and career that creates capacity for the greater good.”
For more details on this year's “From DoG Street to Wall Street” event, visit the Boehly Center website.