Jerome Fulton begged his mom to stay home.
The 5-year-old knew that if his mother went out that December night in 1998, something bad would happen.
He was right.
“My mom died December 1st, 1998. And that night I told my mom not to leave, I had a very eerie feeling that I was never going to see her again, so I said, ‘Mommy, don’t leave. I want you to stay home with me and put me on a bus in the morning,’” Jerome recalls.
The next morning when little Jerome woke up, his family had gathered. Angel Wilson had been found dead in a car on a Miami street, shot 16 times.
‘I’M MY MOM’S ONLY CHILD, AND MY DAD’S ONLY CHILD’
“The news people were coming around and called, it was a spectacle,” Jerome recalls. “I remember the news interviewing me and I wasn’t sad or crying, and I said, ‘I told her not to leave, but she didn’t listen to me.’ And everybody was looking at this 5-year-old kid like, ‘Did he really just say this?’ I don’t know if I had a grasp of what was happening, but I had some level of maturity, or understanding, at that point. But you know, it was tough because, I’m my mom’s only child, and my dad’s only child.”
But Jerome did not have his father to comfort him in grief. His dad had been murdered five years earlier, on the day of his parents’ baby shower, about a month before Jerome was born.
With the death of his mom, Jerome was an orphan.
“No one has custody of me; now the families are at odds and I’m in the middle,” he recalls. He moved around a lot in the ensuing years, to South Carolina and Atlanta, living with different family members. “And it was tough. My aunt had lost her only maternal sister, and then six months after my mom died, my aunt’s husband goes to prison, so she has four kids and then me, so it was tough.”
It got tougher. Even as he was the subject of a protracted custody battle, Jerome was called to testify as a character witness in the trial of his mother’s killer in February 2005.
“I was in the sixth grade and a guy was standing in front of my house with an envelope and subpoenaed me and my auntie to court to testify in my mom’s case,” Jerome recalls. “And I am the one that ended up doing it, going to the state attorney’s office after school, writing a deposition and getting on the stand and looking at one of the men responsible for my mom’s death and telling them, telling the jury, how much my mom meant to me. And at 11 years old, that was a traumatizing experience — but also a liberating one.”
AN INTENSE FOCUS ON SCHOOL PAYS OFF
Through it all, one key lesson, instilled by determined family members, stuck with young Jerome.
That lesson, reinforced again and again throughout his turbulent early years, made the difference for a young man who has gone on to great academic success, including an undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Florida and a master’s in accounting from the University of Southern California. After working for two of the premier global consulting firms, Fulton last month achieved his greatest success yet: admission to six of the most elite business schools in the world.
Fulton was accepted by Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Columbia Business School, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale School of Management. He will join Harvard’s MBA Class of 2023 in the fall.
Line Francine Kouecheu was one of a small group of MBAs who recently attended a “virtual” commencement with some fellow (vaccinated) classmates from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, gathering in a barn in Ann Arbor and walking across a makeshift stage to cheers as their names were called via video. It was a strange end to a long, incredible, and yes, strange education journey for the newly minted MBA. Few have juggled so many responsibilities, under such unusual circumstances, through two years of business school. And few deserve more to bask in a happy Mother’s Day this weekend.
Line (pronounced Lean), born and raised in Douala, Cameroon, moved to the U.S. for college in 2006, then spent the next decade working first in product development, then in technology consulting, including a consulting role at Accenture, the global professional services giant, where she worked for five years. She has lived all over the U.S., from Atlanta to Philadelphia to Boston to New York City, most recently calling San Francisco home.
Around 2018, Line began to envision a role in product management in technology, a major pivot from consulting. The best way to achieve that kind of career redirection: business school, of course. In fall 2019, Line began her full-time MBA journey at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Then March 2020 happened. And Line, with a 2-year-old daughter and a husband working full-time, having just returned from a school trek to Colombia and planning to join a tech startup in Palo Alto, California for a seven-week curricular internship, was faced with the biggest pivot yet.