Hettie Simmons Love, one of the first Black graduates from the Wharton MBA program, has died at the age of 100.
Love graduated from Wharton in 1947 as the sole Black student and one of only two women in her class. She died in her home near Harrisburg, Pa. on July 14, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Originally from Jacksonville, Fla., Love graduated from Fisk University in 1943. She then attended Wharton, receiving an MBA with a concentration in accounting, and became one of the school’s first recorded Black graduates of the MBA program.
The discriminatory practices of the time made it difficult for Love to apply her knowledge in the field of business.
“Every job I attempted to get, I was told there was no further need for employees or that they just didn’t take Black people — they were very honest about it,” Love said in a Wharton news release in February 2023.
Although she was unable to fully leverage her Wharton degree, Love remained active in service and education efforts in her community. She joined the finance department of the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia.
Love also worked as treasurer for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, volunteered for various education advocacy organizations, and provided bookkeeping services to Black businesses in her area, according to Wharton Magazine.
In May 2021, Love returned to Penn to celebrate the publication of the children’s book “Hettie Simmons Love: Penn Pioneer.” The National Youth Foundation, a nonprofit organization that runs diversity-centered literary programs, brought together a group of Philadelphia-area children in grades four through six to write and illustrate the book. It describes Love’s life as a trailblazer, from growing up in the Jim Crow South to her time at Wharton.
During her visit to campus, Love met with Wharton Dean Erika James, who is the school’s first Black female dean. They discussed the historic nature of their meeting, and James awarded Love with a Penn Pioneer certificate.
“I would not be here if it weren’t for someone like you who paved the way,” James told Love.
Penn previously honored Love in 2016 at the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial Conference, Wharton’s longest-running student conference. The annual conference, named after the civil rights leader Whitney Young, is held by the African American MBA Association at the Wharton School and is now in its 49th year.
In December 2022, Love attended the conference again, this time to receive an award celebrating her 100th birthday. Wharton presented the Hettie Simmons Love Award to a current MBA student who embodies Love’s legacy of academic excellence and courage.
Love was involved with Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historic Black sorority, and received a diamond membership in 2016.
“[Love] was walking history and a pioneer, a mentor to many as a servant leader, loving mother and wife, a sorority sister, and a pillar to our community as she exemplified what it means to be supreme in service to all mankind,” AKA's Harrisburg chapter wrote in a post on July 15.
In an essay for Wharton Magazine on Love’s impact, 1990 Wharton graduate Lana Woods wrote that only the racial and gender barriers of the time prevented Love from fully using her skills professionally.
“By paving the way for women and minority professionals, what Hettie did was far greater than anything measured by a corporate balance sheet or a resume,” Woods wrote.