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Kokomo native Beth Brooke-Marciniak receives honorary degree

May 10, 2017
KOKOMO, Ind. — As one of the nation’s top businesswomen, and a former elite athlete, Beth Brooke-Marciniak has learned her success gives her a platform to help others.

On Tuesday (May 9), Indiana University Kokomo honored Brooke-Marciniak for her professional and personal achievements, awarding her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during Commencement.

“If you don’t use your success to make a difference, you don’t succeed,” she said. “I recognized that my success in basketball and in business gave me a platform to do what I love.”

At age 13, after a hip injury, a doctor told her she might never walk again, but she refused to accept his diagnosis.

“I told that doctor not only would I walk again, I would be the best athlete he’d ever seen,” she said.

With determination, her athletic success propelled her to Purdue University, where she earned a degree in computer science and industrial management, as part of the first class of women basketball players awarded athletic scholarships. That led to her job at EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young, where she’s worked 36 years. She left the company for two years to work on health care policy in the first Clinton administration.

Brooke-Marciniak is global vice chair of public policy at EY, working with stockholders worldwide to address issues that affect the policy profession and global capital markets. She leads the company’s global diversity and inclusiveness efforts, and works with civic and business organizations that promote women in the workplace.

Beth has been included in Forbes’ “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” list six times, and ranked number three in a list of top LGBT business leaders by OUTstanding, an executive level network for LGBT business people.

On commencement day, she and her wife, Michelle Brooke-Marciniak, shared what they’ve learned from basketball and their careers after basketball, with members of IU Kokomo’s women’s basketball team. Their passion is paying it forward to the next generation of female athletes, preparing them for success in careers after sports.

Michelle played in two national championship games for legendary coach Pat Summitt at University of Tennessee, winning the title in 1996. She played in the WNBA, and later was an assistant at South Carolina. She is co-founder of SHEEX, a company that makes bedding from athletic performance fabrics.

Beth also talked about considering personal brand, or what people think of when they think of you. Early in her career, most people thought of her as working for EY, which meant she needed to shift her focus.

“I wanted my personal brand to be moving mountains for women,” Beth said. Through her Women Athletes Business Network, she helps elite athletes, including Olympians and professional basketball players, pivot to their next careers after retiring from sports.

“What they’ve learned as athletes prepares them for future success,” she said, noting that 94 percent of female executives played sports, and more than half of those were basketball players.

Beth also urged the basketball players to start building relationships while they are young, and look for opportunities to help others. That was an area where she admits she had to make up ground later.

“I valued the task more than the relationships, and I’ve had to work to make up for lost time,” she said.

Beth and Michelle both agreed that work ethic is key to success in any field.

“It’s your job as a human being to wake up every day and be the best person you can be,” Michelle said, which Beth noted makes someone more invaluable to those around them.

“That’s my mentality, I kept focusing on how to make myself more valuable.”

She also spoke of her “magical” childhood, growing up in the Stonybrook neighborhood in Kokomo, where her father and role model, Howard Millard, worked at Delco.

Her father taught her to use her gifts, but not to get “out over my skis,” or too proud of her success, because she could fall on her face the next day.

Her family, which also included mother Mary Millard and older brother David Millard, rode the ups and downs of the automotive industry, which instilled great values in her, including respect and inclusiveness.

The honorary degree was especially meaningful to her as the last surviving member of her family. Because her brother earned his undergraduate and law school degrees from IU, she had assumed she would also go to IU, before she had the chance to make history on the Purdue women’s basketball team.

“It means a lot to me to receive this honor from my brother’s school,” she said. “It’s such a humbling honor. I am who I am because of where I began. I’ve never found people like those who exist in Kokomo. I knew at some point I would be back.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana

Last updated: 05/23/2017