Five Honored for Missions Accomplished
By Deborah Blagg and Susan Young
The 2010 Alumni Achievement Award recipients have made their mark in a wide range of fields, from banking and investing to retailing, entrepreneurship, and space exploration. United by their leadership skills, each of these alumni is living proof that while the School’s graduates take a variety of paths, the end result is a positive one. Over the summer, the Bulletin had a chance to talk to this year’s honorees, who arrive on campus September 28 to accept their awards. For complete profiles, visit www.alumni.hbs.edu/awards/.
Susan L. Decker (MBA ’86)
Former President, Yahoo! Inc.
As Yahoo! president, entrepreneur Sue Decker led the company’s global business operations, including sales, product, product marketing, and distribution. Since leaving Yahoo! in April 2009, she spent the past academic year as the School’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence, in which capacity she helped lead the MBA Silicon Valley Immersion Experience Program.
As a newspaper industry analyst at DLJ early in your career, did you anticipate the industry’s decline?
I put a “sell” on newspapers in 1988 when I saw threats to classifieds. That only got worse as companies such as Google and Yahoo! took hold.
What was the most valuable thing you learned at HBS?
Richard Tedlow, an outstanding professor, taught me that the teacher is more important to the students than the course material. The same applies in business. Leadership is more about the passion, humor, and sense of purpose conveyed than with the task itself; I’ve used that knowledge again and again.
What opportunities do you see as the economy emerges from crisis mode?
When it comes to technology, we all have the same core desires to do things smarter, faster, and simpler, and to stay connected to each other. Entrepreneurs who find better ways to address these needs will add value through new companies and services.
James Dimon (MBA ’82)
Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Before joining JPMC in 2004, Jamie Dimon had been a top executive at Salomon Smith Barney and the Travelers Group; helped create Citigroup; and rescued Bank One.
As a manager, you are known for cost cutting. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?
I never call it cost cutting because that implies it is indiscriminate. I cut wasteful expenses, but I make continuous investments in elements that drive long-term organizational health.
Has the recent financial crisis permanently changed Wall Street?
There were many fundamental causes and contributors to the crisis, and we all learned or relearned lessons. Some practices will be different forever, and that’s a good thing. There will be much more regulation, but overall, we’ll continue to do a good job for our clients and grow the business.
What does “accountability” mean in the context of running a financial firm?
Tell the truth, serve people, have integrity. Have the ability, guts, and courage to say no when you need to, and explain why. Do it with respect and humility. If you make mistakes, admit them and fix them at every level.
Allan W.B. Gray (MBA ’65)
Chairman, Orbis Investment Management, Ltd.
Following HBS and eight years at Fidelity, Allan Gray returned to his native South Africa in 1973 to found Allan Gray Investment Counsel, which became the largest privately owned, independent asset management firm in southern Africa. In 1988, he left Cape Town to start an international investment firm, launching Orbis Investment Management with his son, William (MBA ’93), in Bermuda in 1990. Today, Orbis has about $20 billion in assets under management.
How did you first become interested in investing?
My father had spent time in the Argentine and followed the price of Indian tea shares. As a young boy, it was romantic and exciting to chat with him about global investing.
What has been the secret of your success as an investment manager?
A focus on earning the trust and confidence of our clients and providing them with compelling value for their money.
Has your philosophy of value investing changed over the years?
We’ve put more and more emphasis on companies’ intrinsic value — including intellectual capital and brilliant management — not just price-to-book and price-to-earnings ratios.
What are the keys to moving the South African economy forward today?
Education, entrepreneurship, and, ultimately, responsible leadership.
James A. Lovell (AMP 62, 1971)
President, Lovell Communications
Former Astronaut, Apollo 13
In 1970 the world watched as Commander James Lovell and his crew scrambled to convert their lunar module into a lifeboat when their cryogenic oxygen system failed. It was Lovell who coolly oversaw the mission’s safe return to Earth. After retiring from NASA, Lovell began a career in telecommunications. He also coauthored Lost Moon, a book that inspired the movie Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard. Lovell now serves on several space-related boards and is an advocate for the U.S. space program.
What brought you to HBS?
I needed an introduction to the business world.
What has your career taught you about leadership?
Teamwork is really the glue that holds any organization together; the ability to communicate between various groups is vital.
Did people know who you were before Tom Hanks played you in Apollo 13?
Most didn’t. It worries me how influential the movies are. The good news is that Ron Howard was committed to getting it right.
Your thoughts on the U.S. space program today.
Historically the program has had a big impact on society. Tangible benefits like technology spilling over into the private sector but also intangibles: education, inspiration, inter-national collaboration. We are losing ground.
Marvin S. Traub (MBA ’49)
President, Marvin Traub Associates, Inc.
Former CEO and President, Bloomingdale’s, Inc.
Marvin Traub grew up in retail. With both his parents in the business, dinner conversations centered on how to run a store, promote a designer, and expand a brand. After business school and a stint at Macy’s, Traub joined Bloomingdale’s in 1950, became president in 1969, and served as chairman and CEO from 1978 to 1991. Today the energetic octogenarian runs his own international consultancy and still travels extensively — for business and pleasure — with his wife of 62 years, Lee.
Tell us about a high point of your Bloomingdale’s career.
In 1976, the Queen of England visited our New York store. She absolutely stopped traffic. I introduced her to three young American designers: Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan.
How much has the store — and the business — changed over the years?
Enormously. Brands and stores are now global. While the Internet has changed everything, good stores remain distinguished by creativity and a willingness to change.
At 85, do you ever think about retiring?
I have a strong belief that one stays younger and more in touch by working with younger people. It’s worked for me so far.