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Published on March 5th, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Darla Moore; “Extraordinary Ambition and a Strong Sense of Fair Play”

The storied career of Darla Moore is a unique combination of extraordinary ambition and a strong sense of fair play, driven by a tough independent streak and tempered by a slow burning southern charm.

A native South Carolinian, Darla was born in Lake City, amidst the family cotton, soybean and tobacco farm, on August 1, 1954. The oldest daughter of Eugene T. Moore, and his wife Lorraine, originally of Lohman, Missouri. Darla has a younger sister, Lisa, who resides in Carlisle, Maine.

Life on the farm provided a strong moral backdrop with an abundance of good lessons for Darla throughout her youth. From an early age, she possessed a desire for activity beyond the norm for young girls. Such unconventional thinking was encouraged by her parents, particularly her Dad, who, in addition to working the farm, was also a school teacher, principal, and coach.

Darla graduated from Lake City High in 1972 and headed to the University of South Carolina in Columbia where, just three years later, she earned a BA in Political Science. Darla gained some political exposure while working for the successful Jim Edwards gubernatorial campaign and then as a political researcher for the Republican Party in Washington, DC. Then she decided to seek a more substantial method of earning a living and headed to George Washington University, graduating in 1982 with an MBA.

She joined a training program at Chemical Bank in New York, where she was attracted to the hottest trend in corporate financing – Leveraged Buy Outs, or LBO’s. However, since opportunities in this area were not readily available to a female, particularly one from the rural south, regardless of qualifications, she followed the advice of a friend and mentor at the bank and opted to begin her career in the less prestigious backwater of corporate banking – bankruptcy. Darla dove in and began, relatively unnoticed, to study, build, reshape and perfect her approach to the business of bankruptcy.

As a result of her success, Darla became the darling of the corporate banking industry, garnering profiles in leading industry magazines such as Forbes, Fortune, Working Woman, Worth, Wall Street Journal, and on CNN. She became the highest paid woman in the history of the banking industry and rose to managing director of Chemical Bank before accepting a similar position at Manufacturers Hanover Bank.

On a business trip to Texas, Darla met successful investor Richard Rainwater. A year later, the opportunity arose for a follow up meeting, which led to the realization that something of a more serious nature was brewing. On Dec 13, 1991, Richard Rainwater and Darla Moore were married in New York City’s Brick Presbyterian Church on Park Avenue. Darla ultimately was named President of Rainwater Investments, and, together, they have reached levels of financial power and independence few could imagine.

Her success in the banking and investment industries became legendary and led her to positions on numerous corporate, educational, and philanthropic boards. Included in these are Magellan Health Services, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, MPS Group, SC Governor’s Commission on Teacher Quality, The Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Education Business Advisory Council, New York University School of Medicine Foundation, George Washington University, University of South Carolina Trustees, and Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

Building on such success would be a challenge, but Darla grasped another opportunity to make a difference. In 1998, USC announced her $25 million gift to the USC School of Business, now known as the Darla Moore School of Business, the first such school in US history to be named for a woman.

In 2002, Darla founded the nonprofit Palmetto Institute with the mission to increase per capita income of every South Carolinian by focusing on education. In 2003, she donated $10 million to Clemson University’s School of Education, which was renamed the Eugene T. Moore School of Education in honor of her father, and, in 2004, she pledged an additional $45 million in matching funds to the Moore School of Business.

With such an illustrious and generous career, Darla has received numerous accolades. Of particular note, she was the first woman featured on the cover of Fortune and was also named to the Fortune list of top 50 most powerful women in American business. She has received several honorary doctorates and, in 1998, was awarded the highest civilian honor for any South Carolinian, the Order of the Palmetto.

Darla Moore has spent decades pursuing her personal ambitions with remarkable zeal. All South Carolinians can be thankful that she continues her zealous pursuits now, on behalf of her beloved Palmetto State.

Darla Moore was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 2007.

 

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