Alumni Week honors co-workers for dedication to Lindner, UC
CyberSure’s Laurence Jones and Eku Williams share friendship, history of giving
A pair of University of Cincinnati and Carl H. Lindner College of Business alumni have been recognized by the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association as part of the 2023 UC Alumni Celebration, which highlights the contributions and overall excellence of UC alumni.
Laurence Jones, BBA ’00, has received the Robert E. Dobbs Distinguished Service Award, while Eku Williams, BBA ’00, is Lindner’s Outstanding Alumnus honoree for 2023. Jones and Williams were also commemorated on a downtown Cincinnati mural with other 2023 alumni awardees.
Jones (president, co-founder) and Williams (partner/practice leader, information technology audit and compliance) lead CyberSure, which helps its clients identify their exposure to cyberattacks and security breaches.
At Lindner, Jones is the incoming chair of the Business Advisory Council, an Executive Cabinet member and sits on the Inclusive Excellence Advisory Board. He is also a UC Foundation Trustee, chair of the UC Foundation Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and a past president of the UC Alumni Association.
“Receiving the Robert E. Dobbs Distinguished Service Award is humbling, as Bob was the template for serving the University of Cincinnati,” Jones said. “I will never forget our lunch together when I was preparing to become the Alumni Association president, as he was my unofficial mentor for serving UC. He told me to find my passion and serve that passion unapologetically.”
Williams is the chair of UC's African American Alumni Affiliate, a former member of the Lindner Alumni Council and is on the board of the Cancer Support Community of Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky. Last fall, Williams sat on a panel of local leaders moderated by Lindner Dean Marianne Lewis, PhD, to share his leadership approach with respect to navigating tensions.
“Receiving Lindner’s Outstanding Alumnus is a huge surprise and honor, something I never saw coming. I never gave my time to be acknowledged. I gave my time because I wanted to be a voice of past and present students of color,” Williams said. “While being that voice, I was striving to make the business college aware of the importance of diversity and how it benefits UC as a whole going forward to obtain and retain top talent.”
Kindred entrepreneurial spirits
Before Jones and Williams matriculated to UC’s then-named College of Business Administration (CBA), they commenced their academic journeys at different colleges — the College of Arts & Sciences (Jones) and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (Williams).
Jones noted that the CBA supplied him with a foundation for understanding business operations, which he has used to great effect by co-founding CyberSure, RiskVersity and Resurgent Collaborative. He said he first caught the “entrepreneurial bug” working at Brixey & Meyer during the accounting firm’s infancy.
“I worked in the founding partner’s basement. My first desk was a card table with a kitchen chair. That's kind of where the bug hit me. But it was somebody else's dream,” Jones recalled. “Coming in as employee No. 3, I had a lot of influence on what was happening. And I did make partner, so I was in a leadership role in the organization. I just wasn't fulfilled with that track. That's when I made the decision to follow my entrepreneurial passion.”
Prior to CyberSure, Williams’ career stops included Fifth Third Bank, First Financial Bank, Omnicare, Macy’s, Worldpay and TriHealth. Williams also has an IT consulting business. One of Williams’ lasting takeaways from his undergraduate studies was career strategy planning.
“There are going to be forks in the road, but when that fork happens, how do you prepare for X, Y and Z? If Y happens, how do you strategically get from Y to the next phase? That is how I’ve looked at my career,” Williams explained. “I started seeing change in the environment, and every job I’ve taken, I’ve understood the business. I know the people and what they're trying to accomplish.”
After graduation, Jones and Williams kept tabs on each other’s careers before Jones convinced Williams to join CyberSure in early 2021.
“He called me and said, ‘Hey, I have an opportunity.’ As long as I can feed my family, I’m willing to take a [pay] cut because it’s an opportunity for me to be a partner,” Williams said of the thought process behind joining CyberSure. “So, that allowed me to keep that entrepreneurial spirit, even though I'm quote, unquote getting a salary. It’s allowed me to learn the skill sets that he’s been taught. I wake up with a different mentality.”
The philanthropy and business knowledge Jones and Williams impart to Lindner and UC is invaluable. But another critical contribution is discussing the racial obstacles they’ve experienced — specifically in the technology field, an underrepresented sector for people of color — with students, Lindner and UC stakeholders, and workplace peers, among others. Jones and Williams share the preconceptions they face to not only raise awareness, but to set an example for change.
“When I go to technical conferences, it’s usually me and a very small handful of people of color. When companies have a booth, most people are the higher-ups,” Williams said. “Once we start talking, I already know they're going to challenge me intellectually. I'm not used to seeing you. Let me see if this guy is really as good as he is. He's saying he's a partner. That means you're in leadership, you’re a decision maker. Let me challenge you even more.
“And so, I challenge back. Once we get over that, are you going to hear me when I speak about CyberSure? So, when I explain it again, it's like, ‘Oh, you guys are doing something unique. Here's my business card.’ But it is a challenge.”
Jones noted that many in positions of power in their field “don’t really know what diversity means.”
“When we're trying to work with certain organizations who don't get it, we have to do more than the folks who don't look like us. You're not asking them these 15 questions to even get to the meeting — and then another 25. You're asking them one question to get to the meeting, and you're asking them two questions in the meeting. We have to go through all of these other hoops to qualify and verify what we can do,” Jones said. “Sometimes we're almost too Black on [virtual meetings]. We hop on a call with the CFO, the CEO, the IT director. They’re all white. We got four Black dudes talking about cybersecurity and IT. You see it on their face. … It’s reality. That’s what we deal with every single day.”
Why they give
Williams echoed a sentiment expressed by Jones as to why he donates his time and resources to Lindner and UC.
“We do owe the business college for giving us that foundation and networking,” he said. “That's probably one of the reasons why we both give back to UC as much as we do.”
Jones harkened back to the relationship he built with Tony Yates, the late UC basketball player and coach, when both were on the Alumni Association board. Yates left Jones with advice that mirrors Lindner’s mission to its students.
“He would take me to go to breakfast and check in. And he said, ‘If you don't remember anything else, be a professional problem solver, whatever that is,’” Jones recalled. “That didn't make sense at that time. It was 2005 or 2006 when he told me that. But that's what I live by today.”
Featured image: Eku Willliams, BBA ’00 (left), and Laurence Jones, BBA ’00, at Lindner Hall. Photo by Suzanne Buzek.
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Alumni Week honors co-workers for dedication to Lindner, UC
April 20, 2023
A pair of University of Cincinnati and Carl H. Lindner College of Business alumni have been recognized by the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association as part of the 2023 UC Alumni Celebration, which highlights the contributions and overall excellence of UC alumni. Laurence Jones, BBA ’00, has received the Robert E. Dobbs Distinguished Service Award, while Eku Williams, BBA ’00, is Lindner’s Outstanding Alumnus honoree for 2023.
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