John Rice, 51, played point guard for the St. Albans Bulldogs in 1984 when they won the league championship. He lives in Bethesda.
Management Leadership for Tomorrow is a dull and forgettable name. Is there a more exciting way you can tell me what the organization does?
We talk about our name and how it’s descriptive but dull! For a nonprofit organization, we should have a pithy one-word description. We haven’t come up with one. It takes a little bit of time to understand our work. There’s one place in our society where, regardless of your socioeconomic background or your race, if you have talent and you’re willing to work hard, you don’t get lost. That is the sports world, which has developed an infrastructure that starts with coaching. Players get coaching at every stage. In sports, we’ve made very clear what it takes in terms of skills to get to the next level of competition. We have stats and video that help people understand “Here’s the bar, and here you are relative to that bar, and you can close the gap.” In the professional world, that clear understanding of how to get to the next level isn’t there. MLT is about taking the core elements of sports — that playbook, that coaching and that supportive peer community.
Do you remember getting the idea for MLT?
When I was a second-year MBA student at Harvard, I looked around the classroom and was like, Wow, why are so few minorities experiencing what I was experiencing? I found an entrepreneurship professor and did an independent study to understand the problem. There had to be a reason there are so few minorities at critical launching points for people’s careers. I came up with a business plan.
What do you think would be different for you if you’d looked around Harvard Business School and seen more people who looked like you?
When you have a genuine confidence that you belong, you’re not afraid to ask for help; you’re comfortable taking risks. Most people, when they’re one of very few, have to develop that genuine confidence, and it takes some time and mental energy.
What’s a memory that stays with you from growing up in Washington?
One of the special things about growing up in Washington in the ’70s and ’80s is there were — you consistently experienced real-life images and examples of black people who were economically mobile, who had hope in their eyes and were optimistic about the future. When I would go to other cities in the country, there was not a visible black middle class. It always struck me.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I really enjoy deep-sea fishing. I love being out on the open sea. It calms me and makes me feel like I’m going to live for a long time.