Who Is Mellody Hobson?

Who Is Mellody Hobson?

Mellody Hobson is an American investor, businesswoman, and financial educator who was born into poverty and made it her mission to escape, be successful, and help others manage their money better. Hobson is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-headquartered investment management firm, sits on the boards of several big companies and organizations, frequently appears in the media, and is regarded as one of the most influential people on the planet. 

Key Takeaways

  • Mellody Hobson was born on April 3, 1969, in Chicago, to a single mother of six children.
  • Her mother’s financial struggles made Hobson realize the importance and power of money, which eventually culminated in her pursuit of a career in finance.
  • After graduating from Princeton in 1991, Hobson took a job at Ariel Investments and remains there to this day.
  • She is now co-CEO of Ariel and sits on the boards of several big companies and organizations.
  • Hobson also dedicates her time to promoting financial literacy, diversity, and equality.
Mellody Hobson

Investopedia / Alison Czinkota

Early Life and Education

Hobson was born on April 3, 1969, in Chicago. Her mother was a single mom, already had five other children who were much older, and according to Hobson, struggled to make ends meet.

Hobson told Harper's Bazaar that her mother “made really bad financial decisions” that would result in them getting evicted or left without electricity or a phone line. It was these experiences, she said, that made her become obsessive about managing money, a passion that would later lead her to pursue a career in finance.

Hobson’s struggles at home also encouraged her to embrace school and education. In the past, she’s been quoted as saying she would cry if she couldn’t go to school.

Hard work and good grades eventually led Hobson to the promised land: an Ivy League university. At Princeton, she studied international relations and public policy and apparently “spent a lot of time in the library." She also spent time interning and working at various investment firms.

Hobson credits her success to her upbringing, claiming that a childhood of financial hardship made her realize the power and importance of money.

After graduating in 1991, Hobson took a job at Ariel Investments, run by fellow Princeton alumni John W. Rogers Jr., overseeing client services and marketing. She then quickly moved up the ranks, becoming co-CEO in 2019 and president in 2000.

Hobson said she was drawn to Ariel, a Chicago-based company that manages the assets of individual and institutional investors through its own mutual funds and separately managed accounts, because its founder, Rogers, was a “wunderkind,” and it was the first Black-owned money management firm in the nation. In Rogers, she found a mentor and the perfect platform to achieve the financial freedom for which she yearned.

Career Highlights

Hobson is a busy lady. Aside from helping Ariel to grow its assets under management (AUM) to approximately $16 billion as of 2023, she is actively involved in a host of other projects.

Leading Voice on Financial Literacy 

Hobson is a big advocate of financial literacy and education. Over the years, she has taught courses, spoken at events, and worked in the media to share her knowledge with the readers and viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS News, Black Enterprise, and more.

Her articles and videos help educate millions of Americans about finance while raising her profile as one of the most influential people in the business.

Lending Expertise in Boardrooms

Hobson also puts her expertise to use in the boardrooms of some of America’s biggest companies. In 2021, she was appointed chairwoman of Starbucks. She sits on the board of JPMorgan Chase & Co., too, and was previously on the board of directors of several other big companies, including DreamWorks and Estée Lauder.

Hobson has worked on the boards of a number of civic, nonprofit, and professional organizations over the years as well. They include the Economic Club of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the George Lucas Education Foundation.

Giving Back to the Community 

Chicago-born Hobson plays an active role in her local community, particularly in the education sector. Over the years, she has served as chair of After School Matters, a nonprofit that provides Chicago teens with high-quality, after-school programs, and as director of the Chicago Public Education Fund, which is tasked with ensuring that every child in Chicago has access to a “world-class public education.”

Recognition and Awards

Hobson’s hard work, generosity, and glittering resume have resulted in several awards and accolades. Recent highlights include:

  • Time magazine named her one of its 100 Most Influential People in the world in 2015
  • Becoming the first African American woman to be named chair of the Economic Club of Chicago
  • Receiving the Order of Lincoln, the state of Illinois's highest honor
  • Winning the Woodrow Wilson Award, which is presented to a Princeton graduate “whose career embodies a commitment to national service"

Where Does Mellody Hobson Work?

Mellody has many jobs. Her main role is as co-CEO of Ariel Investments. However, she also sits on the boards of various big-name companies and nonprofit organizations, performs community outreach in her native Chicago, and regularly campaigns to improve diversity and financial literacy at events and through the media.

Where Did Mellody Hobson Go to College?

After graduating from Saint Ignatius College Prep, a private college-preparatory school in Chicago, Hobson was courted by the Ivy Leagues. In the end, she opted for Princeton, where she began studying mathematics before transferring to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Is Mellody Hobson Married?

Yes. Mellody married American film director George Lucas, who is best known for creating the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, in 2013. The couple reportedly met in 2006 at a business conference and now have a child together.

The Bottom Line

Mellody Hobson is an American success story. She was raised in an environment where the odds were stacked against her and yet emerged a few decades later as one of the nation's most recognized and influential voices.

Hobson has achieved a lot in a relatively short period of time, and perhaps most importantly, used her growing influence and status to help others less fortunate. Her work to increase financial literacy, advance educational opportunities, and promote diversity has made America a better place. When it comes to accomplishments, you can’t do much better than that.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Blackpast. "MELLODY HOBSON (1969- )."

  2. Harper's Bazaar. "Mellody Hobson on Achieving Financial Freedom and the Importance of Investing in Yourself."

  3. Bloomberg. "How Did I Get Here? Mellody Hobson."

  4. The History Makers. "Mellody Hobson."

  5. Ariel Investments. "Mellody Hobson Elevated to Co-CEO of Ariel Investments."

  6. Ariel Investments. "About Ariel."

  7. Starbucks. "Starbucks Announces the Appointment of Mellody Hobson as Non-Executive Chair of the Board."

  8. JPMorgan Chase & Co. "Mellody Hobson."

  9. The Economic Club of Chicago. "Ex-Officio, Mellody Hobson."

  10. After School Matters. "Board Leadership."

  11. The Chicago Public Education Fund. "Mellody Hobson."

  12. Time. "Mellody Hobson."

  13. Princeton Alumni Weekly. "May 9, 2017: Hobson ’91 to Chair Economic Club of Chicago; Singer ’97 Talks World War III; Deford ’61’s Farewell; and More."

  14. The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. "2018 Laureates Announced."

  15. Princeton University. "Alumni Day Speakers Hobson, Quillen Advocate Service, Inclusion."

  16. Encyclopedia.com. "Hobson, Mellody 1969–."

Open a New Bank Account
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.