SPECTRUM : GETTING TO KNOW LISA MENZIES - Higher Education


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SPECTRUM : GETTING TO KNOW LISA MENZIES

by MICHELLE J. NEALY

No one has to teach Lisa A. Menzies about the signifi cance of the nation’s 103 historically Black colleges and universities, and there is no need to remind her that these institutions produce some of the brightest students in the nation. As a former HBCU student, she already knows. Th at is why six years ago Menzies took a job with Johnson Controls Inc., a Fortune 100 engineering and sustainability fi rm, that allows her to link Black institutions with a company committed to preserving their rich legacies and illuminating their futures.

As director of national business development at Johnson Controls, Menzies builds partnerships with HBCUs and other minority-based entities planning to renovate existing infrastructure and create new buildings that are “greener” and more sustainable. Johnson Controls’ core business is to supply nonresidential buildings with systems to control heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, security and fi re management. Menzies also identifies other ways where Johnson Controls and minorityserving institutions can partner to empower students and local communities.

During Menzies’ tenure at the fi rm, Johnson Controls has donated $100,000 to Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, to support education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In 2005, Johnson Controls presented former Johnson C. Smith University President Dr. Dorothy Yancy with a $10,000 check to help fund the university’s Saturday Academy project, a program in which JCSU students work with school-aged students. Last year, Johnson Controls donated $10,000 to Rust College in Mississippi to support the college’s liberal arts program.

“We partner with HBCUs because a lot of them don’t have the funds to actually do these types of things on their own,” Menzies says. “We not only get work on their campuses, we hire their students, we offer internships and we have our corporate partners speak on their campuses.”

Johnson Controls recruits at more than 40 colleges and universities across the nation, 14 of them are HBCUs.

After Hurricane Katrina, Johnson Controls played a pivotal role in helping Dillard University in New Orleans regain its footing by assisting the university with HVAC improvements and sponsoring fundraising events.

“We suffered about $400 million in damages. One of the things that Johnson Controls did was serve as the premier sponsor for our fi rst annual Pre-Commencement Scholarship Concert, which netted the university more than $200,000 for scholarships,” says Dr. Walter Strong, executive vice president of institutional advancement at Dillard University. “Johnson Controls understood that the vitality of Gentilly, the surrounding area, was largely predicated on Dillard’s ability to come back strong. Johnson Controls stepped up to the plate and found ways to be assistive.” Menzies’ passion for Black colleges stems from a family lineage fi lled with HBCU alumni.

“My mother, aunts and uncles attended HBCUs, [mainly] Dillard and Xavier universities. My passion for Black colleges comes from living four blocks away from an HBCU, watching the students who attended and wanting to be like them,” says Menzies, a native of New Orleans, La. One of the schools Menzies attended was historically Black Southern University at New Orleans.

A serious commitment to diversity is at the center of Menzies’ focus and it is the cornerstone of Johnson Controls’ philosophy.

“At Johnson Controls it is a business imperative to focus on the development of our future work force by strengthening education and training opportunities in technical fi elds,” says Charles A. Harvey, vice president of diversity and public aff airs. “Th e cultivation of talent at all levels through diversity programs and higher education is critical to our ongoing success.”

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