Point Me Toward Tomorrow
By NancyLee Honey Marsh
Photography courtesy of Bea Wray
The hand that grasped her from behind held a knife! “Deep in thought about the job offer to be CEO of Data Securities International (DSI) that I had refused only minutes earlier, I never realized the danger until it was over. I mistakenly thought it was a friend playing games,” related Bea Wray, who brushed the hand away and spun around to offer a hug. “When he sliced my purse off and guarded it with the knife, the situation dawned on me. I threw my purse at him, and screamed, ‘I’m being mugged!’ Startled, he ran and jumped into a nearby getaway car! I was lucky and blessed, escaping with only a cut on my hand.”
Noticing the chill bumps on me, Bea quietly touched my arm. Curls springing about her smiling eyes she soothed me with, “In case you didn’t notice, I’m wearing Pink!” As we continued our conversation, I sensed her carefree optimism, with a strong sense of commitment to daily challenges, and oh, yes, a sporty determination and stubbornness. Bea’s narrow escape on what was a normally a quiet stroll to a San Francisco friend’s home, changed her life. Her harrowing experience triggered a callback and acceptance of the offer from DSI. “Tired of the ‘bad’ side of town where I worked, it was suddenly clear to me the new job opened doors, eliminated the risks of the present office location, and offered an exciting challenge. It was a pendulum swing though: Leave the company I had created, or go for new options. I decided to go for it!” Always possessing an entrepreneurial spirit, Atlanta-born Bea graduated Summa Cum Laude from Emory, while captaining their formidable tennis team. She confessed, “I didn’t appreciate college until an unexpected change forced me to give away two $25 tickets for a performance by The Pretenders. It killed me! I calculated the number of school hours, tuition and figured out how much each class cost. I never showed up late or missed a class again!”
Some start music or dance at age ten. Not Bea. She created a local newspaper at that age, plus she took in ironing to earn her own money. “My Mom said I had to stop, as our neighbors thought Dad had lost his job!” she giggled. Her enterprising personality is no surprise, since Bea feels, “My Dad, a 33-year Ford Motor executive and Mom, an ER nurse, gave me very strong work ethic." In spite of their busy careers, her parents provided a zesty life for the family on motor coach visits to every state except Alaska. After Bea’s graduation from high school, her parents, the Stricklands, moved to Hilton Head Island, where they were frequent visitors. Her contemporaries lounged on the beach, while Bea spent summers working multiple jobs and saved $8,000 toward her college education.
Later, when she applied to Harvard Business School in 1995, she had saved $10,000. Her last-minute application—salvaged by “Delta Dash, you know, the one used when FedEx is closed,”—was surprisingly accepted and presented the 27-year-old CEO of a prestigious San Francisco firm another challenge: Move to Boston to obtain her MBA or remain as CEO with DSI. Ultimately, she waved away the acceptance and remained in San Francisco. “I consider it what I did for love,” Bea said dreamily. “I met my husband the next week!”
During the 1998 spring break from Harvard Business School, where she reapplied, Bea and Chris Wray married on Hilton Head Island and dashed off to St. Croix for a brief honeymoon. Despite all the happy distractions, with dedication and determination, Bea earned a Harvard MBA with distinction in 1999. Her goal to be a psychologist was dashed by a grueling honors thesis, leaving her totally disenchanted with the field. “Sick of the statistical studies and boring reports, I basically told the department they could keep the psychology…I’m going to find a job!”
And that she did! From East to West coasts, from the U.S. to Germany, where she was director of Siemens Business Services, Bea wowed the corporate world. Her amazing talents of organization, management, motivation and stern ability to successfully assume risks with start-up businesses lead to the founding, launching and sale of two software escrow firms, including Deposix GmbH in Germany and Source Harbor on Hilton Head Island. Her international, entrepreneurial career left many breathless. Through all this, Bea struggled to save her 16-year tumultuous marriage. After much counseling and multiple separations, she ultimately became a single Mom with three children depending on her. I sensed true frustration in her inability to salvage what meant so much to her. Even though she exhibited a deep faith in God’s guidance, she finally recognized she had to “kiss today good-bye” and strive toward tomorrow. Her search for a full-time job when moving back to Hilton Head Island led her in 2013 to The Creative Coast, a Savannah company and job she savors. “I love this company and being Executive Director has given me the opportunity to meet and help really cool people with their creative aspirations,” she declared.
If I could choose a Bible verse to describe beautiful Laura Beanette Wray, it would be Proverbs 17:22: “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”
Bea defines success: “Being who we are meant to be.”
Great joys: Surfing, playing tennis with my children.
Surprise: She’s a soccer/basketball/ballet mom.
Inward feelings: “I am where I should be at this time in my life. No better spot! I’m a chronic optimist! I do not know when to quit!”