Montgomery Finds Baseball, Law School Good Prep for Life

Montgomery Finds Baseball, Law School Good Prep for Life

The fact that he would one day be traveling the globe conducting international business transactions was the furthest thing from young Donald Montgomery’s mind when he was a boy in Chicago. All he knew was that he wanted to play baseball.

It was baseball that first brought Montgomery, BSBA’84, JD’89, to Creighton in 1980. But it was the special feeling he experienced that kept him at the University, completing degrees in business and law. Montgomery is the 2014 recipient of the Judge Elizabeth D. Pittman Award in the School of Law.

“I was recruited for baseball, and I chose Creighton over the universities of Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska,” he says. “On my visit to the campus, I could tell that Creighton was not just a college but a community, a home away from home.”

Montgomery says when he decided to attend law school, he and his wife, Paris, were parents of the first of their three sons. “I knew that Creighton and my friends in the community would provide a support network for my family. I also knew the law faculty was committed to teaching first, and I was told that I would be able to develop professor-student relationships with the faculty, which I thought was critical.”

Today, as senior tax director and counsel for General Electric’s Energy Management Division in Atlanta, he oversees global tax reporting, compliance and planning. His work ranges from structuring how GE sells its products and services, setting up new business operations, working on acquisitions and dispositions, and ensuring that GE complies with the tax rules of other nations. His division conducts business in more than 70 countries, and he oversees a team of 28 tax professionals worldwide.

The seeds of his future were planted as early as his initial recruiting trip, when he met a third-year law student, Greg Rhodes, JD’81. Later, Tom Purcell, Ph.D., BSBA’72, JD’77, professor of accounting in the Heider College of Business and professor of law, became his closest faculty mentor. “Through discussions with both of them, I concluded that obtaining a law degree would advance my career interests,” Montgomery says.

His career has indeed advanced. Following graduation, Montgomery practiced law in Chicago before joining GE in 1992. “The challenge of working in a dynamic company with some of the smartest people in the world while being challenged professionally every day has been rewarding,” he says. “I have also gained great cultural awareness from my international business travels.”

Montgomery was the first in his family to attain a four-year degree. He says his parents encouraged him and his two brothers and one sister to go to college, and he saw early on that “the people who succeeded had gone on to college.”

The Pittman Award ceremony, which in 2014 celebrated 66 years of distinguished African-American graduates, noted Montgomery’s leadership and service as a student, his career achievements and the plethora of volunteer activities in which he participates. The list includes mentoring and teaching at-risk students, founding youth programs and church work.

“Everything I have achieved is due to people who invested in me when I was young and learning the correct way to do things,” Montgomery says. “My teachers saw academic potential, and they took the extra time to help me realize that I could reach an even higher level of achievement. My youth and high school coaches continually put me in situations where I could develop individual and team leadership skills.

“I felt I owed paying this forward to my community and using the gifts that God had given me to help lead and hopefully inspire other youth to reach their goals.”

He holds fond memories of his years as a third baseman at Creighton as well. He still ranks among Creighton leaders for career batting average (fifth, .373); batting average for a single season (first, .470, 1983); runs scored in a season (tied for second, 80, 1983); and slugging percentage for a season (second, .783, 1983).

“My teammates supported me through a tough freshman season,” Montgomery says. “They led by example through their work ethic and academic successes, and they played a key role in the success I had on and off the field after my freshman year.” The team improved every season, eventually becoming ranked in the top 25 his junior year, 1983.

In fact, he was drafted in the eighth round by the Montreal Expos in 1983. He played for one season and a part of another season before returning to Creighton, finishing his degree and graduating on time with his class.

“The lessons I learned on the CU baseball team were a microcosm of life,” Montgomery says, “and they prepared me very well for life’s challenges and opportunities.”