By Eliott Grover
At an alumni event during his first year at Trinity College, Marvin Pierre ’06 had a conversation that changed his life. He met Jawanza Gross ’94, a fixed income trader who, like Pierre, had grown up in Queens before attending prep school en route to Trinity. When Pierre told Gross that he aspired to work on Wall Street, Gross offered to mentor him.
“He was very no-nonsense,” Pierre says. “He just kind of said, ‘Listen, I’m going to help you get to where you want to be in life because I like what I see in you, but don’t waste my time. If I see that you’re not serious, I’m not going to work with you.’ That’s all I needed to hear.”
For the rest of Pierre’s time at Trinity, he had weekly calls with Gross. They would talk about everything––life, school, decision-making. “I can’t emphasize how critical his mentorship has been in putting me on a path to success,” Pierre says.
After graduating with a B.A. in economics, Pierre accepted a position at Goldman Sachs. Despite his accomplishments, he felt a pull toward a different path. He left finance after two years and embarked on a career in education. In 2017, he co-founded Eight Million Stories, a nonprofit in Houston that seeks to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.
“I have a heart for kids who are written off,” Pierre says, “because at some point in my life I was written off as well. If it wasn’t for the mentors and great schools I attended, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
He grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, a low-income neighborhood in New York City. Before Trinity, he attended Tabor Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts. “Tabor opened my eyes to what was possible for my future,” he says. “But it also helped me see the contrast in the community resources I had access to in South Jamaica versus what I had access to there.”
As a student at Trinity, Pierre held a number of leadership roles. He strove to be a resource to younger students. Rhoden Monrose ’09 says Pierre was like a big brother to him. “He’s one of the most impressive people I overlapped with at Trinity,” says Monrose. “He’s a passionate and determined leader. He dreams big and gets things done. He doesn’t do anything haphazardly.” Like Pierre, Monrose also was mentored by Gross. “Marvin was instrumental in preserving that mentorship chain with Jawanza.”
More recently, Pierre has volunteered his time to share his story with the Bantam community. During a 2020 Virtual Long Walk presentation, he described his sense of purpose. “What motivates me the most is taking on life’s most pressing issues,” he said. “I’m a disrupter of systems that limit the potential of our most vulnerable youth.”
Pierre has helped lead the charge for the new Trinity Entrepreneurial Network. He spoke at the group’s inaugural presentation last July and left a strong impression on Lou Shipley ’85, who moderated the discussion. “Entrepreneurship is so popular now,” says Shipley, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. “Most people think of it as ‘I’m going to start the next Google or Tesla,’ which is great. But in Marvin’s case, it’s ‘I’m going to solve a critical problem in our society.’ ”
The demands of Pierre’s work make time a precious commodity, but he says he will never pass up an opportunity to help Trinity. “Anytime I get a chance to be in front of students, I take advantage of it because they need to hear from us,” Pierre says. “They need to hear from people who look like them and can really inspire them to go on and be successful in life.”
Read more about Pierre in the Spring 2018 Trinity Reporter