The goal of Black Excellence is to educate, inspire, and inform the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, executives, professionals, and more through the stories and advice of those who currently occupy those ranks. The hypothesis is that no matter how ordinary we think we are; we are each capable of extraordinary results, and Black Excellence seeks to model how to achieve those results while being grounded in experience.
Shafer grew up in Burlington, New Jersey and earned a degree in accounting at Drexel University. After Drexel, he worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as a CPA. He served as president of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) at Drexel and later as the Director of Professional Education for NABA’s Philadelphia chapter where he helped lead efforts to diversify the profession through a program called Passnow. This initiative was intended to address the low percentage, 3% according to the CPA Journal, of African American CPAs.
“When I spoke with Kenneth Frazier, Chairman & CEO of Merck, who is also an attorney, for Black Excellence,” said Shafer, “he spoke about the importance of both collective action and individual excellence. Therefore, for me my goal is to learn and develop into the best professional I can be. Penn has given me great training to build from and to hopefully contribute to diversifying these elite professions and coveted spots in society.”
As a student at the Law School, Shafer has actively sought to serve his community through clinics and pro bono engagement. He worked as a student counselor in the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic, providing legal advice to minority owned and other businesses, and as a courtroom advocate to obtain a temporary order of protection for a victim of domestic violence. Shafer is also serving as a Black Law Students Association (BLSA) outreach mentor, a program that provides mentorship to minority college students who are considering attending law school. In addition to being an alum of the BLSA outreach mentorship program, he is also an alum of SEO LAW, an organization committed to increasing the percentage of underrepresented minorities in corporate law.
“One experience that stands out in my mind as preparation for Black Excellence was the work I did in the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic under the advisement of Practice Professor of Law Praveen Kosuri,” said Shafer. “My clinic partner, Roger, and I worked with entrepreneurs named Troy and Kareem of T&K Grassroots, a food truck and catering company that launched during the pandemic. Troy and Kareem are great examples of Black Excellence that exemplify grit, perseverance, and overcoming incredible obstacles to launch their business that has a focus on creating an impact in the community and inspiring others.”
Shafer also noted his participation in the Penn Law Inn of Court as an integral part of his publication journey.
“I met some fantastic, seasoned attorneys, one of whom was Tom Kline, Founding Partner of Kline & Specter,” said Shafer. “Tom and I were in the same group and ended up working together for our Inn of Court presentation. During that time, I discussed the book with Tom, and he has been a significant support. He provided meaningful counsel in the project and made some pivotal connections for interviewees.”
Black Excellence includes insights gained from interviews with Judge C. Darnell Jones of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; Dr. Shelly R. McDonald, Chief Medical Officer of Howard University Hospital; Gregory Reaves, Co-Owner of Mosaic Development Partners; Kenna Baudin W’98, Partner and Head of US Private Equity and Board and CFO Specialist at Egon Zehnder; Sulaiman Rahman EAS’97, Founder and CEO of DiverseForce; Sandra Dawn Grannum, Partner at Faegre Drinker; Marcus Leonard, Associate Partner at Bain & Company; Robert Young, Partner at PwC; Ruth Agbaji, Franchisor/Entrepreneur; Jocelyn Moore, Draft Kings Board Member and Venture Partner at Ozone X Ventures; Shundrawn Thomas, President at Northern Trust Asset Management; Remy Nshimiyimana C’08 L’11, Counsel at Faegre Drinker; Lenwood Ross L’99, Founder and CEO of Accelery, Inc., and more.
Shafer acknowledges that the relationships he developed during his time at the Law School were “pivotal” in his writing Black Excellence.
“My very first interview was with Remy Nshimiyimana L’11, who I met at the Law School,” said Shafer. “Dean Ted Ruger and Professor Kosuri have provided guidance and support during the process.”
Shafer maintains that readers of Black Excellence will learn about drivers of success in the interviewee’s lives, key moments, crucial decisions, obstacles overcome, and pivotal influences in their lives and will walk away with the tools necessary to implement key lessons in their own lives.