As a teenager, Bruce Taylor ’77, P’15, dreamed of playing professional football or hockey. “I was like all young boys, but it wasn’t close to a reality,” he says with a laugh.
Instead, the Chicago native decided to attend college on the East Coast to expand his horizons. His family was entrenched in the Midwest: His father and grandfather owned Cole Taylor Bank, which specialized in commercial lending to small- and medium-sized businesses. At Babson, Bruce forged personal relationships with professors who, along with his father and grandfather, served as role models for him. Those relationships helped make the world of finance exciting to the youth, and Bruce realized that he wanted to join the family business.
Today, he is vice chairman of MB Financial, a publicly owned bank that acquired Cole Taylor in 2014. After a successful 37-year financial career— working in the mailroom, as a teller, and ultimately as chairman and CEO before stepping back a bit in his later years—he feels compelled to assist others through a $300,000 Babson scholarship dedicated to Chicago-area minorities.
Bruce hopes others can benefit from lessons he learned at Babson, such as the importance of investing in human capital. In 2007, for example, Bank of America bought LaSalle Bank, and even though most banks were letting go of employees due to a poor economy, Bruce saw an opportunity to acquire talent. So he hired some of the LaSalle executives. “The need to continue to invest was driven home to me at Babson, and it may have saved our company in some respect. Our employees gave us a much better outcome than otherwise expected during the financial crisis period of 2008 until 2012,” he says. “From a banking perspective, the investment really is in human capital. You need to bring in the best people that you can.”
Now he’s investing in Babson students; the first scholarship recipient started this fall. “I think a Babson education can change the trajectory of someone’s life and open someone’s eyes to a meaningful career in business,” he says. “There are financial rewards, but it’s well beyond that. Businesses can have a strong social purpose, and they can create economic opportunities in areas that need it.”
For Bruce, the scholarship is an extension of his family’s business philosophy. “Growing up, I saw my family donate their time, especially to the Jewish community,” he says. “There’s a great intersection between what we do as a bank and obligations we have as a bank, such as doing good work in the community.”
Bruce is a board member of Chicago’s Jewish United Fund, and he works with the city’s Jewish-Black Business Alliance. He also visits local high schools, teaching students the basics of money management. “As a bank, we’re only as strong as the community we serve,” he says. “It’s in our interest to give back in a meaningful way to those communities where we do business to help them have as much economic opportunity as possible.”
The family tradition of generosity continues. Bruce and his three children, including Stephanie, MBA’15, who in addition to earning her graduate degree from Babson has a master’s degree in social work, are launching a venture capital initiative focusing in part on socially conscious companies. Speaking of children, Bruce’s Babson education had other fringe benefits. While on the East Coast, he took up skiing, which eventually led him to meet his wife. “I have Babson to thank for my career and for my family,” he says.
Kara Baskin is a writer in Arlington, Massachusetts.