10 Things You Didn’t Know About Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier

Kenneth Frazier holds impressive credentials and is best known to most, for his role as the CEO of Merck & Co., the large pharmaceutical company. He holds the distinction of being the first African American to become the leader of a major pharmaceutical corporation. He’s a savvy business executive with a sharp intellect and flair for using words to influence and promote the positions that he represents in business. For those who know him, this isn’t news, but here are ten things about Frazier that you didn’t know.

1. He’s a native of Philly

Kenneth Carlton Frazier was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 17 of 1954. He is currently age 63. He was raised by both parents until his mother passed away when he was just 12 years old. His father Otis, who was a janitor became a single father at this point in their family life.

2. He has an Ivy League education

Frazier is a highly educated man who attended schools in the Philadelphia area. When he was younger, he attended Julia R. Masterman School, followed by Northeast High School, from which he graduated at the young age of 16. He immediately enrolled at Pennsylvania State University, earning his B.A. degree. When Kenneth completed this degree, he entered Harvard University, majoring in Law, and earned his J.D. in 1978 when he was just 24 years of age. This was an impressive accomplishment for a very success minded young man.

3. He worked hard when he was young

While other kids may have been playing games all day and hanging out with their friends, Kenneth Frazier kept himself busy. His father worked hard at his job to support the family and Kenneth did his part as well. While he was in college, he raised newts and tadpoles and sold them to stores locally, to make some extra money. This was a sideline income source that didn’t interfere with his intense studies. He was not only smart, Frazier was also resourceful.

4. He started his professional career as a lawyer

With his credentialing in place, Kenneth Frazier was an excellent candidate for some of the better positions that were available for attorneys. His first job was with the Drinker Biddle law firm in Philadelphia. His work was high quality and by 1991 he had made it to the position of partner.

5. He defended death row inmates

The head of the Death Penalty Representation Project, Esther F. Lardent, requested that Frazier defend James Willie “Bo” Cochran, an inmate on death row. He had been accused of murder in 1976 and sat on death row for 19 years. Frazier accepted the challenge in 1991. Frazier and two of his colleagues from the firm were successful in getting a retrial for Cochran, and in 1997, the accused was found to be not guilty of the charges.

6. He taught law to students in a foreign country

Frazier has an evident love of education. He rolled up his sleeves as a young man and became a J.D by the age of 24. He has a heart for budding young lawyers and has taken four sabbaticals during the summertime to impart his wisdom to others. He spent this time off in South Africa, teaching trial advocacy.

7. Frazier was inspired by his hero

Most boys have their childhood heroes, and sometimes they are so impressed that they follow in their footsteps. Kenneth Frazier shared that growing up, one of his heroes was Thurgood Marshall. We do see some similarities in his chosen path of pursuing a law degree. Perhaps one day, Frazier will end up serving in the higher courts as well.

8. He is quite the philosopher

Frazier is not afraid to share his beliefs and points of view publicly. It’s not that he’s particularly outspoken, but he has opinions that are of value and he consistently looks for ways to improve the society that we live in. In 2018, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society, which is definitely an accolade.

9. He was involved in the Sandusky investigation

Frazier, who was a trustee of the Penn State Board of Trustees, was appointed by the committee to chair the special investigation launched into the Jerry Sandusky controversy that erupted at Penn State. There were allegations that the University staged a cover-up of child sex abuse that Sandusky was accused of committing. It was reported that college officials were aware of complaints and did nothing about it. Under intensive pressure and guided by his passion, Frazier became animated and gave in to his feelings with a few choice outbursts, for which he later apologized.

10. He was appointed to a Trump council but later resigned

Frazier was a member of the American Manufacturing Council under the Trump administration. He disagreed with the President’s position that there were “many sides” responsible for the violence that erupted in the Unite the Right rally that took place in Virginia. He resigned from the council and stated that “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy…”


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