2020 Best & Brightest: Will Pemberton, Lehigh University

William J. Pemberton (Will)

Lehigh University College of Business and Economics

“Will could engage in deep conversation with a wall – and very much enjoy doing so.”

Fun fact about yourself: Second African-American Class President in Lehigh University’s history

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

High School: Blair Academy (Blairstown, New Jersey)

Major: Finance

Minor: Political Science

Favorite Business Course: Finance (FIN) 335: Financial Modeling

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles During College:

  • President of the Lehigh Class of 2020
  • Chairman, Lehigh Minority Business Alliance
  • Veteran Mentor Fellow (Leadership Team), Lehigh TRAC Program
  • Desk Attendant Manager, Taylor Gym
  • Teaching Assistant, FIN 335: Financial Modeling
  • Member of the Lehigh CB (College of Business) Senior Council
  • Past Member, Lehigh CB (College of Business) Junior Board
  • Past Member, Lehigh Student Senate
  • Past Member, Lehigh Council of Student Presidents
  • Past Member, Lehigh Residence Hall Committee
  • Lehigh University Dean’s List

Where have you interned during your college career?

OneMain Financial: Personal Loan Specialist, Summer of 2017 in Chicago, IL

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC): Start Intern, Summer of 2018 in Chicago, IL

Citigroup (Citi): Investment Banking Summer Analyst – Global Power & Utilities, Summer of 2019 in New York, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? Citigroup (Citi): Investment Banking Analyst – Global Power & Utilities

What company do you admire the most? Apple. Having read Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, I now understand how an intangible asset for a firm, such as brand, can really define its direction and ultimately determine its unique successes and failures. Steve Jobs was a fascinating human being who understood what we all needed or desired, thus, the Apple brand continues to fascinate and deliver for us all.

What did you enjoy most about your business school? There are tons of students, staff, and faculty – but it feels that everyone knows you and you know them. There isn’t a day that goes by where you can’t traverse the halls of the Rauch Business Center without seeing new and old faces – from the Common Grounds cafe to the Rauch Atrium.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? A successful business person isn’t a master of one major or one skill set, but they’re capable of exhibiting skills in all areas of business from supply chain logistics to developing a strategy for managing human capital. Furthermore, exhibiting a wide breadth of expertise and knowledge of what makes a firm successful, is what inevitably culminates in rising to that vaunted and coveted position – CEO.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Don’t limit your ambitions. Business is ever-evolving and the age of work is destined to look entirely different over the next 20 years or so. From day one, you should desire to triple major or triple minor in what you’re passionate about. Taking the aforementioned step, when envisioning your undergraduate career, will ensure that your actions guide you to pursue what you’re most passionate about. Speaking from experience, I had grandiose ambitions of being a Finance and Accounting major along with a double minor in Real Estate and Political Science. In retrospect, only two of the four actually stuck in the end – not to say it was a mistake to think that would be realistic. I wouldn’t change it one bit, looking back, because it helped guide me to where I am today.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? How much reading is required. I mean I knew there would be some, but I largely expected to be given a toolkit of ratios and approaches for my major and told to use that and run with it. In reality, majoring in business is signing up for a major in which you will inevitably be required to read a ton. At the end of the day, understanding business and developing the skill set to be successful requires you to have the passion and desire to read and seek answers to the questions defining the pressing issues – all in all, the reading requirement is extensive, but I loved every second.

What academic, extracurricular, or personal achievement are you most proud of?I’m proud of being elected President of my class in the fall of 2016 because it marked the beginning of an amazing four-year journey at Lehigh. When becoming the lead representative of my class, it established a platform to create life-long friendships with bright, ambitious people from all walks of life. However, it also allowed me to establish meaningful relationships with the faculty, staff, and administrators who are integral to ensuring that Lehigh is an institution we’re proud to call home, from day one until the time we graduate. But more importantly, it provides a platform from which to leverage those connections with my peers and faculty, staff, and administrators, long after I conclude my journey and attempt to spread the gospel of the Lehigh brand around the world as an alum.

Which classmates do you most admire? Michael J. Maguire.

Mike and I met last year, as a result of the two of us obtaining the same Investment Banking internship at Citi for the summer of 2019 and we’ve developed a life-long brotherhood ever since. There are very few people in the world who I could say I look up to or model my behavior after, but Mike embodies the same values and principles of life that I do. Said principles consist of the following, more or less in concise terms: working harder than the rest, always being humble, and ensuring that you keep a huge smile on your face in the process. Love you like a brother because you are, Mike. Cheers to Lehigh and the rest of our lives!

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My loving mother: without her I would not literally and figuratively exist. She’s embraced the role of a single mother with such grace and perseverance and that has truly shaped the nature of who I am and what I stand for in life. She’s been there through the ups-and-downs and has never missed a beat. She has never allowed me to consume in excess the fruits of my labor, ensuring that while celebrating the accomplishments I maintain my hunger for more. She’s also more importantly, never allowed me to excessively internalize the pain and sorrow that accompanies facing failure and being in the midst of defeat, ensuring that I always remember to brush myself off and continue to fight the good fight. Thank You, Mom.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First and most importantly, I’d like to have had a career that transcended my contributions to the triple bottom line of the firm I’m leading or contributing to. But a career that I could retroactively reflect upon as one in which I made a lasting impact on the lives of shareholders and stakeholders, alike, and all while working hard and keeping a smile on my face.

Secondly, I’d like to be able to one day call up a few of my close friends, hop on one of our private jets and trot the globe to raise some capital. Hopefully, said endeavor would ultimately culminate in the establishment of a firm that offers a unique value proposition and is one of a kind.

What are your hobbies?  I enjoy working out at the gym at least 3 to 4 times a week, enjoying wine or craft beer with friends and family, reading the works of Bob Woodward or Walter Isaacson, playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare with Mike Maguire, and much more!

What made William such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Will Pemberton exemplifies the model Lehigh student – he is articulate, well-organized, courteous, well-mannered, and most importantly, conscientious. I first ran into him the previous spring semester when he was enrolled in my financial modeling class which primarily focuses on investment banking models. He excelled in this course and was one of the top performers despite being a junior competing against many seniors in the course. He also displayed good teamwork skills when working with his group on the elaborate models in the course. He impressed me so much that I have engaged him to be my Teaching Assistant in the same course this semester. I have no hesitation in recommending him for this honor.”

Nandkumar (Nandu) Nayar, Ph.D.
Professor of Finance and Hans Julius Bär Endowed Chair
and Chair of the Perella Department of Finance, College of Business

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE TOP 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST BUSINESS MAJORS OF 2020

Comments or questions about this article? Email us.