Seventy-five years after graduating from the preeminent Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a master of business administration degree, Hettie Simmons Love is receiving a bit of recognition for being the first Black to graduate from Wharton. Love, 99, was honored earlier this month for Women’s History Month in March by the National Youth Foundation.
Last year, NYF also released a book about her life for young readers, “Hettie Simmons Love: Penn Pioneer.”
It wasn’t until 2016, at an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority event where Love was being honored, that she learned she was the first African American, male or female, to graduate from the Ivy League business school.
The Wharton School’s MBA program was ranked as the second-best graduate business program, behind Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the top business school for finance in the world by Quacquarelli Symonds, which publishes annual ranking reports of the best worldwide universities.
Even today, Black enrollment at Wharton is not high. Only 8 percent of the class of 2023 is Black/African American, according to data from the school.
In the 1920s, Love attended the esteemed Boylan-Haven Boarding School. After graduating from Boylan-Haven, she attended Fisk University, a Historically Black College and University, where she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
After graduating from Fisk University, she studied business, with a concentration in accounting, at the Wharton School.
Not only was she the sole Black student in the program, she was also one of only two women in the class.
Love told Wharton Magazine that three male Jewish students invited her to join their study group during her first semester. She said those students accepted her as a fellow student who was smart enough to earn admission. Love completed her degree with a concentration in accounting. After graduation, Love said it was still difficult to find a job, even though she carried the Wharton pedigree.
When Love was a student, she didn’t benefit from binding with other Black students, as there were none.
Today, Black students at the school have the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association resource, which was started in 1975. It is an academic support, social community, and professional development organization, through which members can “gain industry knowledge, networking skills, and discover their passions in the business pre-professional path,” according to the website.
Black Wharton Undergraduate Association developed a sub-organization: Black Wharton Consulting in 2018,. BW Consulting provides consulting services to minority-owned businesses in Philadelphia by Wharton students.
Today, Love, who will turn 100 in 2022, reportedly lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.