Alumni profiles: Pamela Green '85 and Kate Luce M.B.A. '15

As she received the 2017 Liz Silverstein Agent Manager of the Year award, Pamela Green ’85 listed three gestures that came from others and that aided her journey to becoming president and CEO of her own agency, Durham-based PMG Arts Management. She asked her colleagues to be mindful of those gestures as they work with others: affirmation (for those with potential), she said, the benefit of the doubt (teach what they need to know), and second chances (hire them again).

That acknowledgement of grace, a desire to pass it on, and a commitment to pulling others up, are, in part, what earned Green the honor from the National Association of Performing Arts Managers and Agents. Those qualities are also reflective of her unyielding support of meaningful art and diversity, according to Aaron Greenwald, director of Duke Performances. “She’s very devoted to her artists, but she’s not precious,” he says. “That’s the bad rap art can get, that it can be kind of rarified. Pamela tries to support and work on things that have real impact and importance.”

Green’s art fervor developed as a youth growing up in the Boston area. She loved attending concerts, and on the radio, she’d constantly hear the name of Al Haymon, a black promoter, associated with the shows. “I was always really curious about how that worked,” she says. “I’d think, ‘How do you put someone on a stage, and sell tickets and make money?’ ”

At Duke, she fed that interest. She did “everything but appear onstage,” including lighting for the Dance Black company; helping to mount shows for Karamu, the black theater company; and collaborating with Hoof ‘N’ Horn on The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Yet though she added theater to her studies, her focus was public policy—which had an arts-administration track—and becoming a child psychologist.

Until her then-boyfriend, now husband, Isaac Green ’83, in hopes of keeping her in North Carolina for the summer, told her about the American Dance Festival and encouraged her to apply for a job. She worked with the festival two summers. She was on her way.

The ADF relationship continues; Green also works with Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence, Philadanco, and Camille A. Brown & Dancers, and she proudly developed The Clothesline Muse, a theatrical production with jazz artist Nnenna Freelon. At its core, her job is marketing, but in full, she’s about supporting her artists’ ideas and bodies of work and helping them get more work.

“I represent artists—what they want and what people bringing them in want—so there’s compromise. There’s a lot of care and compassion in the way I do business.”—Adrienne johnson Martin

As the youngest CEO in railroad history, Kate Luce M.B.A. ’15 has big dreams for her short line: rebranding the way railroads are perceived by the public—often as “providing poor customer service and not being reliable”—and becoming a leader in experimenting with new technology.

And she thinks she can get there.

As what is known as a “short line” in railroad terms, the Mississippi Export Railroad is a family business. Luce’s great-great grandfather purchased the railroad—formerly named A&M—in 1922, saving it from bankruptcy and preserving it as one of the 500 lines that are part of the original U.S. railroad network. Based in Moss Point, Mississippi, it stretches forty-two miles north to south across the state and connects to larger railways. Luce had long dreamed of leading the railroad but didn’t think her opportunity would come so soon. Shortly after Luce graduated from Fuqua, a family illness shifted priorities for Luce’s father—then the railroad’s CEO—and he decided to step down.

“He told me, ‘If you want to come do this, the time is now. Otherwise, I have someone else in mind to hire,’ ” Luce says. “So, the time is now. I’m excited to be here.”

She began in customer service at MSE; before long, she was behind the wheel as a conductor, dispatching trains as a trainmaster, and working as the manager of transportation, all before becoming the president and CEO when many of her peers would have been in the early stage of a career.

Being privately owned and operated gives the railroad the freedom to experiment and innovate.

On her list? Deploying the self-driving train. The first fully autonomous train run was completed this past summer by the Australian line Rio Tinto, and Luce wants to see a similar movement in the U.S.

“A truck on the road—it can go forward, it can go backward, it can go side to side. A train can only go where its track will take it,” she says. “I believe that our industry needs to get up and be on the forefront of testing autonomous vehicles.”

Her vision doesn’t end there. Luce is looking for new ways to use technology to track deliveries for customers, expand business via the kinds of cargo her trains carry, and better steward the environment. (Trucks account for 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while trains account for only 2 percent, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.)

“I’m learning every day—and that is what I love to do,” Luce says. “I’ve been given a great opportunity. Now the question is—what can I do with it?” —Christina Holder

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