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Oct. 14, 2016

Monique Hunt McWilliams  

 

Monique
Hunt McWilliams, chief diversity officer at Eli Lilly and Co., is a proud Indianapolis
Public Schools alumna who, through determination, has overcome many obstacles
to become a highly successful businesswoman.

 

The
wife and mother of two recently reflected on her experiences as a John Marshall
High School graduate (class of 1982).

 

From
neighbors to teachers to many of the same friends since childhood, McWilliams
takes us down memory lane to show how the IPS community built her to be the
strong, ambitious woman she is today.

 

 

Early life
in Indianapolis …

Raised in Indianapolis, I lived in a racially-mixed, working-class neighborhood
where my neighbors – police officers and detectives, professors, teachers,
small business owners — made moderate incomes. I didn’t see drugs or violence.

 

I appreciated my neighborhood because of the friends I had. My
neighborhood was all about hanging outside with friends. We often watched our
brothers play baseball at the Forest Manor Park baseball diamonds or hung out
with friends at Washington Park. I really appreciated these early friendships.

 

I went to a public school my entire childhood. I remember going to
elementary at George Rogers Clark School 1. I really loved that school; it was
such a great building. I also remember going to Forest Manor Middle School. We
had great facilities at Forest Manor, like the swimming pool.

 

While in middle school, I began to be very active in school activities
such as running track and cheerleading. Back then, my friends and I walked to
school, 30 minutes each way, which was something I always enjoyed. If something
happened on the walk, I had to figure it out, thus learning problem-solving
skills at a young age.

 

My family and neighborhood experiences gave me the ability to persevere
when faced with adversity, and I am very appreciative of that.

 

Your
experience at John Marshall …

My brother was bused to John Marshall High School and was part of the
first African-American students to get bused to predominantly white schools. I
remember watching on television the social disruption because of the black
students going to the school. I also recall seeing helicopters and police
surrounding the building as students left school and boarded the buses to go
home.

 

By the time I got to John Marshall, I didn’t feel any tension concerning
race. John Marshall was indeed one of the best times of my life. I leaned into
school as a cheerleader, president of student council and by attending
homecoming events.

 

My IPS
education prepared me for …

Life. My IPS education prepared me for life and how to be a survivor.

 

Fondest
IPS memory as a student …

I experienced amazing teachers and leaders at IPS. 

 

Ms. Brown was my second-grade teacher. She was African-American,
expected a lot and guided her class with a firm hand. Looking back, I realize
she was pushing students to be their best.

 

Then there is Mr. Kerr, my fourth-grade teacher. He had a major
influence on my life because he was my teacher the year my parents got
divorced. Though I was going through a trying time at home, Mr. Kerr assured me
that I was smart and had the skills to be successful. I will never forget the
following year when I was an honor student, Mr. Kerr said to me, “I knew you
could do it.”  Those words meant a lot to
me.

 

In addition to the teachers who had an impact on my life, I loved being
a cheerleader. I still have some of the same friends I cheered with at John
Marshall. It’s kind of fun how IPS kids, John Marshall alums, are proud –
especially when we see each other.

 

Your life
since graduating …

After high school, I went to Indiana University Bloomington where I
graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1986. I then went back to IU
for law school. I’ve been a lawyer since 1992 and have thoroughly enjoyed my
career.

 

I have been a lawyer at three different places during my career. I started
out as a litigation lawyer at a law firm, then I worked for KFC Corporation and
finally landed at Lilly here in Indianapolis in 1998.

 

I am currently the Chief Diversity Officer at Lilly and am responsible
for advancing Lilly’s diversity and inclusion strategy across our global
enterprise.

 

Proudest
accomplishments …

My family. I am very proud of my children and my marriage.

 

With my children, I’ll say, you never know you could love a human being
so much until you have children. My daughter, Jasmine, is a (high school) freshman.
My son, Terrance Jr. (TJ), is in the sixth grade.

 

In addition, I am proud of my husband. We met when I was a young lawyer.

 

Aside from family, I am proud of what I have accomplished as Lilly’s chief
diversity officer. I have an amazing team in our Global Diversity and Inclusion
Office here at Lilly and every team member is passionate about advancing
diversity and inclusion. We get the opportunity to help Lilly recruit, develop
and promote the best and most diverse talent. At Lilly, we define diversity
broadly such that everyone has important elements of diversity worth
understanding. We help employees at all levels of the company value and embrace
diversity and demonstrate the attributes of an inclusive leader. Only then can
all Lilly employees be their best selves at work and enable Lilly to get the
benefit of each employee’s most innovative thinking so we can help make life
better for patients around the world.

 

Interests/Hobbies

I love to exercise, because it
reduces stress. I also enjoy hanging out with my family and enjoy watching my
children play sports. I enjoy family vacations. We spend a lot of time in
Florida, because my husband’s family lives there; the state has so many great
beaches.

 

Vision/Dreams

My dream is that my husband and I would have a long life together and
that my children will be happy and prosperous and contribute something special
to the world to make it better for themselves and others.

 

My vision for the community is that we would bring humanity back in the
way we should respect each other.

 

Final
Quote …

“Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean you cannot be it.” I didn’t
meet any lawyers when I was a child, but I became one and am very proud of
that.