01 Aug 2002
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Class Day & Commencement

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Skies were overcast on the afternoon of June 5 but that didn't faze this year's 911 graduating MBAs who, along with their families and friends, gathered on Baker Lawn to celebrate Class Day 2002. High spirits remained undampened as threatening rains held off and a succession of speakers reflected on the class's achievements to date and the opportunities that lie before it.

After welcoming remarks by Kevin Mohr of the Class Day Committee, Student Association presidents Mark Plunkett and Lori Schock opened the proceedings with a joint address. Alluding to her many positive lessons and experiences at HBS, Schock noted, “We've all learned there's no better place in the world to be than here. In the future, we'll realize there's no better place to be from.” Plunkett praised the character of his classmates, observing that “whether responding to tragedy, dealing with a difficult job market, or coming together to find a way to give back to those less fortunate, it is clear that the Class of 2002 does not shy away from challenges.”

Class Day Committee member Brad Staats then presented the Student Association Faculty Awards to four HBS professors in recognition of their ability to inspire, impart knowledge, and contribute to student life. In the Required Curriculum, the winners were Assistant Professor Frances Frei (TOM) and Assistant Professor Jan Rivkin (Strategy); honorees in the Elective Curriculum were Assistant Professor Youngme Moon (Marketing) and Professor André Perold (Finance), who also won the award last year.

Next to take the podium was Class Day student speaker John Brown. An MBA degree from HBS is not an end itself, Brown noted, “but rather the education here is a trail map helping us to see a wider world and to attain our goals, whatever they may be.” He went on to observe that at one time he had told his study group that he intended to live in Australia and, as a consultant, travel the world while learning about different business models. Instead, Brown said, “I'm going back to my hometown of Washington, D.C., to work for the federal government in national security. Times have changed, and I know I certainly have.”

After concluding his remarks, Brown introduced guest speaker John C. Whitehead (MBA 11/ '47), who is currently chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, charged with overseeing the rebuilding of the Ground Zero site in New York City. Among many other positions and achievements during his decades of experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, Whitehead, the driving force behind the HBS Initiative on Social Enterprise, has served as cochairman of Goldman Sachs and deputy secretary of state in the Reagan administration.

Devoting the bulk of his remarks to the subject of leadership, Whitehead observed that different problems require different leadership styles. When things are going well — “when the wind is at your back” — a thoughtful, intellectual approach is appropriate, he said. “But when the clouds build up and a storm is upon you and the wind is in your face,” a strong, forceful style is essential. Citing the excesses and misjudgments of the economy's recent boom-and-bust, Whitehead urged graduates to maintain perspective, seek the middle ground, and not get carried away by the extremes of prevailing conditions. “In good times and bad,” he counseled, “it's wise to remember to lean against the wind.”

Whitehead concluded by noting the trend among companies toward greater social involvement and responsibility. “I believe your generation of business leadership has the opportunity to push those boundaries forward into exciting new areas,” he said. “In the years ahead, corporate leaders will be recognized not only for the quality of their company's products and services but also for their willingness to tackle some of the country's huge social problems.”

The next day, Mother Nature played the contrarian and rained all over Harvard's parade and other Commencement ceremonies. The awarding of HBS diplomas was moved indoors to Bright Hockey Center, where Dean Kim B. Clark complimented the Class of 2002 for its heroism, courage, and inspiration during a difficult year. Among those whom he singled out for particular praise were Martin Gonzalez and Mo-Yun Lei, winners of this year's Dean's Award for service to the HBS community and exceptional nonacademic achievement. In his farewell to the class, Clark urged graduates “to invest first at home, and to think of this as your most important investment by far.”

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