2003 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Take risks and tell people what you think. Don’t be afraid to express your views."
The son of Lebanese immigrants, John Mack, the youngest of six boys, was born in 1944. Mack's father, who was deeply religious, taught his sons to protect their name, to be honest and deal fairly with others, to be charitable, and, above all, to be devout. His mother, who spent 14 years of her youth as a refugee in Cuba, worked for 15 years to make extra money as a landscape designer, flower arranger, and interior designer. Mack describes her as a wise, shrewd woman. "Even though I have failed in my life from time to time, I have never feared failure. I learned that from my mother," he says.
Together, Mack's parents helped found the first Catholic church in their predominantly Baptist community. "We used to have a priest come from another city to say Mass in our home," he says. "Religion always played a central role in my family. My parents also imbued us with a sense of helping others."
All the Mack boys helped their father with his wholesale grocery business. If they didn't have schoolwork, they went up to the store at night to get orders ready for shipment in the morning. John Mack began working at the age of eight. Not one to waste time, he was always focused on organizing the work and getting it done as quickly as possible. From the time he was in college, he ran the warehouse each summer.
Getting a good education was a priority in the Mack household. Telling their children that education was the key to success, Mack's parents required the boys to work hard in school. Mack was a member of the National Honor Society in high school and served as president of the student body during his senior year. A star football player, he received a scholarship to Duke University, where he majored in history. During the school year, he earned extra money selling snacks that he brought from the family store from his dorm room. During his sophomore year, Mack was devastated when his father died suddenly. The following year, he cracked the vertebrae in his neck and could no longer play football. Without the scholarship money, he needed to find a job to finish his education. He worked as a clerk at a securities firm in North Carolina and attended classes during his lunch breaks.
Upon his graduation in 1968, Mack was recruited by Morgan Stanley. By 1976, he was a vice president, and two years later was made managing director. From 1985 to 1992, he led the firm's Worldwide Taxable Fixed Income Division. He became a member of the board in 1987. In 1992, he assumed the responsibility of Morgan Stanley's day-to-day operations as chairman of the Operating Committee. He was named president the following year. Under his guidance, Morgan Stanley became the only foreign investment bank allowed to do business inside China. Mack steered the company through its merger with Dean Witter & Co. in 1997, making him president and COO of the newly combined firm. In 2001, Mack ended his 30-year career with Morgan Stanley to become CEO of Credit Suisse First Boston, the fifth largest investment bank in the world.
Mack says, "Success is personal happiness-having people in your life who you can count on and who in turn can count on you." Honored by his Horatio Alger Award, Mack says, "The Association's scholarship program for deserving youth is especially admirable. I like to work, and I like to help others. This offers a good opportunity to accomplish both."