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Catherine Brewton - Convocation

Music Executive Returns Home for Convocation Address

It had been more than 20 years since Catherine Brewton stepped foot on campus when she arrived on November 2, 2017. Just hours later, she would deliver the Founder’s Day Convocation address to celebrate homecoming week and the University’s 152nd birthday. For Brewton, it was an emotional homecoming and one that she won’t soon forget. For Shaw students and faculty, it was an uplifting visit from a highly accomplished alumna.

Brewton stood in front of a crowd of hundreds at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, just a few steps away from campus to deliver a heartfelt speech. She described her time at Shaw and the struggles she overcame, her mother’s legacy of helping the less fortunate and her own continuation of that legacy, and gave practical advice for students soon to enter the real world.

"If I had to theme this message today, it would be ‘dare to dream…’ I stand here to say that if you dare to dream, the possibilities are endless."

As a sophomore at Shaw, Brewton earned her first internship at General Electric, a paying job that would allow her to support herself during college. She eventually became the first African-American student to enter GE’s management training program where she would learn skills that would help her in her eventual career as a successful music executive.

But the road to success was a bumpy one. During her first year at Shaw, Brewton wanted to come home. It was her mother that insisted she stay and figure out her path forward. When Brewton asked to come home during an early semester phone call, her mother was insistent that she not give up.

"She said, 'No ma'am. This is what life is about. Figure it out.'"

Brewton went to work on figuring it out and soon forged a path forward that would take her all over the world as one of the country’s most prominent music executives. She regaled the convocation crowd with stories of spending time with the families of DJ Khaled and Diana Ross

Brewton is the Vice President of Writer/Publisher Relations at Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) in Atlanta where she manages relationships with songwriters and composers throughout the country. However, Brewton says she is most proud of her philanthropic work involving work with at-risk youth and feeding the hungry in her hometown of Charlotte, NC. 

During her convocation speech, Brewton cautioned students with some practical advice in avoiding the modern-day pitfalls of social media overuse and abuse and the way it can affect a person’s career and offered her perspective as an employer hiring young people.

"You walk in the door with your suit on, but what are you doing when I’m not there? The world is watching. Be mindful of what you do here…Everybody's entitled to mistakes, but understand the cause and the consequences of every decision you make."

She also encouraged students to prepare for their future and to find their purpose in life.

"Find your purpose," said Brewton. "Find out what God has put you here to do, but in this season in your life, make every day count."

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