Fortune 500 Company Executive Lives Her Purpose Supporting HBCUs

Last Updated on November 16, 2016

Cheryl Harris, an HBCU graduate (FAMU) and Senior VP at Allstate
Cheryl Harris, an HBCU graduate (FAMU) and Senior VP at Allstate. Photo credit: Allstate.
Cheryl Harris knows the value of an HBCU education: after graduating from Florida A&M University, Harris started a successful career in corporate America that led her to an executive position with a Fortune 500 company. As a Senior Vice President at Allstate Insurance, Harris works with customers, celebrities, and education advocates to make HBCUs affordable for all students.

Cheryl’s Story

Harris moved to FAMU when she was only 16-years-old. With the support of her friends, professors, and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters, Harris excelled in school and began her career as a procurement specialist.

“I actually became an adult under the supervision of the administration and the faculty and my sorority sisters and the companies I interned with while I was at FAMU. I became who I am as an adult person there.”

When Harris became an Allstate executive, she continued to contribute to FAMU and the larger HBCU community. Harris has served on the FAMU Foundation Board and worked tirelessly to provide HBCU students with educational and employment opportunities.

The Start of Quotes For Education

In 2009, Allstate partnered with the Tom Joyner Foundation to provide scholarships to HBCU students. Each August through November their program, Quotes For Education, transforms part of Allstate’s insurance business into a fundraising effort to help underprivileged students attend college. As a Senior VP, Harris has been instrumental in turning the program into a successful scholarship fund.

Tom Joyner and Cheryl Harris on stage at the 2016 Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion
Tom Joyner and Cheryl Harris on stage at the 2016 Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion. Photo credit: Reach Media.

“Since 2009, we've raised over a million dollars for HBCUs across the country…It's really good to see that we're able to personalize the impact of the program, so it's not just a million dollars going into this broader thing called the Tom Joyner Foundation, but rather we have success stories that we can talk about.”

This year, Allstate is working with Common to promote Quotes For Education and raise money for higher education. Harris is excited to work with another former FAMU attendee to provide more opportunities to students of color.

“Recording artist, actor, and philanthropist Common is partnering with us to spread the word to raise the 250,000 dollars for HBCU students…He's a person that really is committed to ensuring that we have sustainable colleges and universities that serve and are dedicated to our people, and those schools being HBCUs.”

In addition to working with Common, Allstate is partnering with four influencers who are all HBCU graduates. Among them are Spelman College alumna Chelsea Jackson Roberts, founder of Chelsea Loves Yoga; Bowie State University alumnus Luke Lawal, CEO of the news site HBCU Buzz; Jamie Broadnax, a Norfolk State alum and the founder of Black Girl Nerds; and Corey Arvinger, a Howard graduate and founder of the HBCU Business Expo.

Leaving A Legacy

Over the past eight years, Quotes For Education has changed the lives of HBCU students across the country. Allstate’s partnership with the Tom Joyner Foundation has helped students like LaVerne Robertson Davis, a 63-year-old woman who is going back to school to launch her music career.

63-year-old vocal performance major LaVerne Robertson Davis sits among traditional students at Dillard University.
LaVerne Robertson Davis (center) is a 63-year-old non-traditional student at Dillard University. She was named the 2016 Quotes for Education Student Ambassador and earned a $2,000 scholarship. Photo Credit: L. Kasimu Harris

“I say, “Wow,” every time I talk about it because students like LaVerne remind us that education's a timeless journey. It's for anyone at any stage in their lives, but we also know that just like many of us, we may not always have the financial means to complete our education. LaVerne's a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a small business owner. She's a member of many choirs. She wears many hats, as you can see, but she needed the help of a scholarship. It's things like this that minimize the amount that students like LaVerne have to pay out of pocket.”

Harris understands the impact that Davis and other students have on the HBCU legacy. For Harris, Quotes For Education is more than a scholarship fund: it’s an opportunity for African-American students to pursue their dreams and achieve their lifelong goals.

“We just hope that we can grow the program so that there are more LaVerne's. There are more Garrick's. There are more Corey's. There are more Jamie's. There are more Luke's. There are more Chelsea's…that can benefit, allowing them to again be passionate and make a lasting effect – not just on their lives, but when they're successful others see their success. They become motivators and people that are inspirational, and they can help us attract more students to HBCUs.”

Harris continues to work with HBCU students, alumni, and supporters to promote QFE. If you are interested in participating in QFE, go to to receive a quote online or talk with an Allstate agent about QFE when you receive a quote over the phone or in-person.

“Allstate will then donate $10 dollars for each quote to the Tom Joyner Foundation, and that goes toward our $250,000 goal. It's easy to get involved.”

Cheryl Harris has more than 25 years of experience leading international procurement teams. In addition to being a mother, mentor, education advocate, and Allstate executive, she also serves on several local and national Boards of Directors including The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC); the Chicago Humanities Festival; Teen Living Program, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and comprehensive services to homeless teenagers in Chicago; and the Florida A&M Foundation.

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