Banker, author, motivational speaker, gospel vocalist
Born: October 28, 1962, in Port Arthur, Texas
Resides in: Montclair, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2015: Unsung Hero
Renowned for her deal-making skills and dynamic personality, Carla Harris has conquered multiple worlds while maintaining her commitment to serve those who are less fortunate.
Born in Texas and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Harris left the South for a Harvard education. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with an A.B. degree in economics and earned an M.A. degree in business administration at Harvard Business School.
Harris began her career at the investment bank Morgan Stanley straight out of business school in 1987. It was a period when mergers and acquisitions were commonplace. Harris made her mark in numerous groundbreaking transactions, developing a reputation as a tough dealmaker.
Over the years, Harris became a Wall Street powerhouse at Morgan Stanley. In 2013, she was named the firm’s vice chairman of wealth management. Her experience stretched across multiple fields, including technology, media, transportation, retail, and health care. Upon stepping down as vice chair in 2021, she became a senior client advisor to the firm.
Harris also served as chairman of the Morgan Stanley Foundation from 2005-2014, and has been a presence on the boards of numerous community organizations. In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Harris to chair the National Women’s Business Council.
The lessons of more than three decades on Wall Street have made Harris an in-demand public speaker. A fount of wisdom, she has shared her popular “Carla’s Pearls” with audiences around the world, helping corporate leaders maximize their career success. She has also written three books on business leadership, describing the tools and strategies that made her a success.
The indefatigable Harris has yet another career as a gospel singer. She was just 13 when she began singing in choirs in Florida. At Harvard, she sang with the renowned Radcliffe Chorale Society. As a professional vocalist, she has recorded four gospel albums and played sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall and the Apollo Theater.
But Harris’s greatest commitment remains her passion for serving others. She is especially dedicated to causes involved in the eradication of poverty and hunger.
At her New Jersey Hall of Fame induction, Harris explained, “My professional platform as a banker has also given me the ability… to be able to serve others philanthropically with my time, my talent, and my treasure.”
She added that helping others less fortunate, “takes your life from success to significance.”