Growing up in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, Malik Murray (BUS ’96, MBA ’04) knew there was no question that he would attend college. His mother, who is now a retired school principal, emphasized education. But like his father, who is now a judge, Murray had a gift for playing basketball.
“It was crystal clear that academics and athletics were not mutually exclusive,” says Murray. “So at a young age I learned to balance both.”
Murray received a basketball scholarship to DePaul. Right away he began working on his future on and off the court. He thought that included the NBA, but he soon decided to take another path.
As an undergraduate finance major at DePaul, he interned at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he met DePaul alumnus Brett Burkholder (BUS ’83). Burkholder, an eighth-round NBA draft pick, never played in the league. But he found success as a trader in the Eurodollar pits at the CME.
A risky and competitive environment, the Eurodollar trading arena was known as a haven for former college athletes with heads for business. Meeting Burkholder transformed Murray’s life.
“Even though there weren’t a lot of blacks there, there were a lot of athletes, and I was instantly comfortable,” says Murray, who focused his early career on Eurodollar trading. “Brett told me that I could work in finance and make an NBA salary. He explained to me that my career doesn’t have to end if I don’t play in the NBA.”
That revelation focused Murray’s mind. He thought back to the time he was eight years old and he ran his own lawn business. He had 20 houses and made $200 a week. He realized he had a head for business and a talent for teamwork. Both would serve him well in the finance industry.
Investing in the DePaul MBA
While other juniors and seniors were partying, Murray was riding the el downtown to Chicago’s financial district. There, his worldview changed.
“Just taking the train from the Lincoln Park Campus to downtown with people who were already working in finance was a powerful experience for me,” says Murray. “It changes your mindset. I think it’s significant that the Driehaus College of Business is located downtown. It’s just a great opportunity to marry the academic view with the practitioner’s view.”
His senior year, he took a capstone class that allowed him to work in the futures market at First Chicago Bank, now part of JP Morgan Chase. At the end of the year, they offered him a job. Thoughts of the NBA faded in the wake of his newfound career in finance.
For his MBA, Murray applied to all the major business schools, but chose DePaul. He had a strong connection to the professors he’d met during his undergraduate years, and he wanted to invest in his education with people who had invested in him.
“I jokingly say that I was so impressed with DePaul that I paid for my education the second time,” Murray says, laughing. “Ultimately, it was the best decision for me to get my MBA here. When you go to DePaul and then you go to the real world, the transition is a lot smoother. The internships, the project work, the professors who advise and mentor you, all play a part in your success outside of academics.”
Showcasing Vincentian Values
Earning an MBA increased Murray’s finance career opportunities immensely. He landed a job at Ariel Investments, the largest black-owned firm in the nation. Now in his 10th year at Chicago-based Ariel, Murray’s job is to convince money managers with billion-dollar funds to turn them over to Ariel for investing.
But even as he works with high-dollar value accounts, Murray makes time for his community. He sits on the board of his high school alma mater, St. Ignatius College Prep, where he helps manage the school’s multi-million-dollar endowment.
He helps with the Ariel Community Academy, a public school sponsored by his employer. In addition, he works with Joel Whalen, associate professor of marketing, to advise DePaul student basketball players about the importance of soft skills and image. Last summer, he also shared his experiences with teens enrolled in the Financial Literacy and Leadership Institute, a summer education program hosted at DePaul and sponsored by the Chicago Housing Authority and BMO Harris.
Murray, who recently completed the Leadership of Greater Chicago Fellowship program, hasn’t forgotten his path to achievement.
“I am the beneficiary of lots of help,” Murray says. “I won’t ever be able to directly repay my parents, family, professional colleagues or teachers at DePaul for investing in me, but I can definitely use my gift to help someone who is trying to get to my position or beyond.”