The Black History Month Alumni Speaker Series allows students to hear from prominent black alumni who are business leaders in a variety of fields. This series focuses on the careers of our speakers and how they achieved success. Moreover, the speaker series will expose students to minority professionals so that they may gain a greater appreciation for diversity in the workplace.


Career and Life Wisdom: Insights from Culverhouse Alumni Authors – February 16, 2022, at 4:00 p.m. | Hewson Hall 0015, Open admission

Kelly Mehrtens – February 8, 2022, at 12:30 p.m. | Register

Thomas Walker – February 8, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. | Register

*All times are CST.


Career and Life Wisdom: Insights from Culverhouse Alumni Authors

As part of the DEI Speaker Series, three Culverhouse alumni will share insights from books they recently authored. Their books contain wisdom for career and life success, and how to effectively pass on that success to future generations.

Moderated by Dr. Alice Holloway.

Kenneth Kelly

Bank Chairman and CEO, Minority Banking Leader, Community Servant
Author, Prepared Before I Let Go

Kenneth Kelly serves as Chairman and CEO of First Independence Corp. and First Independence Bank (, a minority depository institution based in Detroit, Michigan. He is a respected leader in the banking community. In four years of his leadership, the corporation has doubled in book value. Kelly serves on the Board of Directors of the American Bankers Association, the voice of the nation’s $20.3 trillion banking industry. He was elected as a director of the Michigan Bankers Association in June 2021. He served as chairman of the National Bankers Association 2018-2020 representing minority banks. From 2018-2020, Kelly served on the Federal Reserve of Chicago Bank Seventh District Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council (CDIAC).  Kelly was also selected in 2018 to become a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman’s Advisory Committee on Community Banking which is charged with providing advice and recommendations to the FDIC on a broad range of community banking policy and regulatory matters. He has testified as an expert witness before the U.S. Congressional House Financial Services subcommittee and has provided input to the full committee of House Financial Services during its COVID19 listening session and provided guidance to the White House and Secretary of Treasury.

Kelly serves as the chairperson of the Auburn University Engineering Alumni Council. In this role, he works with a successful group of alumni including many CEOs to assist the dean of the college with research and development, fundraising, and academic achievement, where he is the first African American to hold this position. In 2019, the dedication of the new Brown Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center included the naming of the Kenneth Kelly Engineering Academic Excellence Program Reception Area. Kelly was Auburn University’s Commencement Speaker on April 30, 2021.

Prior to banking, Kelly enjoyed a 27-year career as an electric utility business leader in numerous roles within Southern Company. His last role entailed negotiating acquisitions of large renewable solar projects valued at $3.4 billion in partnership value. In 2018, Kelly was inducted as the 137th Distinguished Auburn Engineer. In Feb. 2020, he was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. The NYSE honored Kelly through the ringing of the opening bell on Dec. 14, 2020, as chairman of Grow Michigan II. In May 2021, Crain’s Detroit named him a Notable Executive in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Kelly is the author of Prepared Before I Let Go, and owner of, a web-based application to manage your last will, healthcare directive, and power of attorney. In October, the FDIC approved First Independence Bank to open a branch in Minneapolis as the only black-owned bank in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul after the death of George Floyd.

Kelly grew up in Eufaula, Alabama, received an electrical engineering degree from Auburn University, and completed the executive MBA program at the University of Alabama.

Carice Anderson

Author, Intelligence Isn’t Enough

Carice recently released her 1st book - Intelligence Isn't Enough: A Black Professional’s Guide to Thriving in the Workplace and it will be re-released under the Berrett-Koehler Publishers imprint in October 2022. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Marketing from The University of Alabama. Carice has worked with and for top companies such as Deloitte, Google, Publicis Media, and Bain & Company. At McKinsey & Company, Carice managed a leadership development programme for Black professionals as a Professional Development Manager. Her work is currently focused on leadership development, people manager strategy, and diversity and inclusion. Carice has recently relocated back to the USA after living in South Africa for 10 years with her husband Fungayi. She enjoys traveling, massages and she is obsessed with mangoes, chocolate, and laughter.

Ralph Stokes

Director of Partnership Marketing and Community Relations, PGA Tour Superstores
Author, One of the First

A college football career coached by the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant provided Ralph Stokes with a fundamental drive for excellence. Ralph began his business career as a Group Sales Representative for Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  During his career, he acquired the industry’s highest professional designations, including CLU, FLMI, MHP, and HIAA.

Ralph’s natural leadership skills, training, and talent allowed him to weather the storm of acquisitions characteristic of the industry in the late ’90s.  He has served as Regional Sales Manager for Provident Life and Accident, Director of Sales and Marketing for Healthsource, Inc., and most recently, Senior Vice President of Sales for CIGNA Healthcare of Georgia.

With a successful track record as an exceptional sales and marketing strategist, Ralph founded Stokes Consulting, Inc., a sales consulting and procurement agency.  During the growth of the consulting business, he served as Director of Business Development for Chesapeake Consulting, a process management and leadership development firm based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Ralph currently serves as Director of Partnership Marketing and Community Relations for PGA Tour Superstores, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The PGA TOUR Superstore is the largest golf specialty retailer in the nation. In this position, he has helped to group the company from 3 stores to 45 Superstores and one of the industry's leading online retailers.

Ralph received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Alabama in 1975 and is a lifetime member of the University’s “A” Club.  His community involvement includes his service on the Executive Board of the Georgia State Golf Association and Vice Chairman of the TOUR Championship Golf Tournament at East Lake Golf Club.  His additional board memberships include Special Olympics Georgia, the Board of Visitors for the University Of Alabama School Of Commerce and Business, the Atlanta Public Golf Conservancy, the Atlanta Country Club, the AT&T Classic Foundation, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He is a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Virtual Speakers

Thomas Walker

Thomas is a product of Birmingham, AL. He earned a bachelor’s degree (BS 2011) and MBA from the University of Alabama (TEMBA 2016). Thomas is a seasoned automotive retail expert with over a decade of experience managing his family's multiple independently-owned Goodyear tire and auto service shops across Birmingham to leading sales strategies with The Goodyear and Tire Rubber Company for 200+ retail partners.

Bringing together his experience in automotive, challenges observed in the industry, and an admiration for making the world a more convenient place through technology, Thomas co-founded S(w)ervice – a tech-enabled company that partners with auto repair facilities to provide contactless, vehicle pick up and drop off for maintenance.

Leveraged by his entrepreneurial and resourceful skillset, Thomas joined DoorDash as an enterprise-level account manager leading growth strategies for national restaurant brands worth $250M+.

Thomas serves as a member of the Executive MBA Alumni Network, the Founder’s Committee at Innovation Depot, and is an avid coach for entrepreneurship advancement programs and companies.

In his spare time, Thomas enjoys traveling and exploring different cultures with friends, while cheering on the Crimson Tide on Saturdays!

Kelly Mehrtens

Executive Director, The Trust (Powered by the NFLPA)

Kelly Landry Mehrtens is the Executive Director of The Trust (Powered by the NFLPA). The Trust’s mission is to support NFL players as they live their purpose beyond football.

Mehrtens is responsible for managing and marketing a wealth of services organized as pillars. She works with a dedicated staff and world-class providers to connect players to these top-notch services. Mehrtens and her team continue to create hugely successful engagement events to further build upon an unrivaled holistic approach with members of The Trust. Prior to her ascent, she served as Managing Director, a position she assumed in 2016.

Before joining The Trust, Mehrtens was the Deputy Director of Athletics/COO at the University of Maryland where she was a member of the executive leadership team. During her time at Maryland, she had various responsibilities, including leading the day-to-day operations, oversight of an $80 million budget, and serving as the primary administrator for football. Mehrtens also helped oversee the transition of the University from the ACC to the Big Ten Conference.

Mehrtens’ experience in sports administration, budget development, marketing, branding, and fundraising has also touched the athletic programs at Northeastern University, The University of Miami, The University of Illinois, The University of Kansas, and The University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she was Director of Athletics. Further, her leadership has led to positions on several NCAA and Power 5 Conference Committees.

A native of Panama City, Florida, Mehrtens received her B.S. in Accounting from The University of Alabama where she was an All-American discus thrower and member of the track team. She holds a graduate degree in Higher Education from the University of Illinois.

Watch the sessions

Recordings for each session will be made available below.