01 Oct 2000

The Class of 1975 in Review

Reflections by Hans Stumm
Re: Hans Stumm (MBA 1975)
by J. Hans Stumm


The day before classes started in Sep-tember 1973, my classmates and I made our first stop at Baker 20 and then sauntered, wide-eyed and nervous, to Baker Beach for an informal gathering of the great Class of 1975. All I knew about those people in the distance was that they were destined to be future investment bankers, consultants, and Fortune 500 leaders. "Hey, Stumm!" boomed a loud voice. I was astonished to see my Dartmouth buddies Giff Foley and Ken Wilson. Our last encounter had been at college graduation, when I watched them shoot bottle rockets across the Connecticut River! I don't think I would have predicted that Ken would rise to managing director of Goldman Sachs and that Giff would become a widely respected CEO before his tragic death in 1990.

We all have similar stories of friendships begun or sealed at HBS -- in study groups, at the Pub, skating with the Blades, and in classroom debates. When I reminisce with my classmates, it can be difficult (a senior moment thing) to remember that far back. But as class secretary, I have had the occasion to reflect more than most. What I have noticed is that the people and events we talk about usually fall into the following, more or less predictable, categories:

The Young and Foolish.
George W. Bush, we did know each other, but I have to say I never saw you do anything foolish.I can't say as much about the person in our class — who shall remain nameless — who skipped out for a few days to bartend in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and returned to class at 8:00 one morning with a "Hurricane" cocktail from O'Brien's concealed in a shopping bag. Or for his back-row neighbor who kept putting his head down on the desk to sample the cocktail below the desk through a straw.

The Classroom Game.
There were lots of these, but the one I remember most vividly happened in Paul Lawrence's Human Behavior class. A distinguished expert in organizational behavior, Professor Lawrence was known for the intricacy of his blackboard diagrams. The idea of our game was to predict the number of squares, circles, and arrows he would draw on the board to illustrate human interactions. Hunt Greene's high bet wasn't looking too promising until Lawrence, bewildered by Hunt's off-the-wall comments, offered him the chalk to illustrate his theory. Much to the amusement of the class, Hunt kept going until he'd drawn over 75 circles and won the bet, but his antics no doubt ruled out Baker Scholar honors for the future investment banker.

The Cold Calls.
There is nothing like seeing the bold and confident get called on to start a case when they least expect it. Professor Jim Austin once asked Jim McNerney -- now the head of GE Aircraft Engines -- to start the Singer Corporation case. McNerney waxed eloquent on the sewing machine business, the overall outlook for the industry, and Singer's prospects for the future. After five minutes, Austin deadpanned, "Mr. McNerney, are you aware that this case is about Singer's cash register business?"

Of course, the case method provided ample opportunities for all of us to show our brilliance. I remember "expanding" on some of Walt Manley's comments in Earl Sasser's Management of Service Operations class and telling Ben Shapiro that I wanted to "follow up" on Gary DiCamillo's lead remarks in Sales Management. Earl and Ben may not have been impressed by my originality, but at least they'd have to give me credit for choosing good role models: Gary is now chairman and CEO of Polaroid, and Walt teaches business at sunny Florida State, having given up on the weather at Oxford.

Can You Believe What They're Doing Now?
As expected, we have our share of Fortune 500 executives, investment banking partners, consultants, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and at least one governor. We are, of course, happy to say we know them. But we were also part of the late '60s culture, and so it is not surprising to see some of our classmates choose alternative career paths. We are rightfully proud of classmates such as Pastor Jon Weaver, nurse Carol Martin, award-winning songwriter Eric Vogt, and Reva Seybolt, a "hands-on healer" who works to help rehabilitate convicts and addicts.

The big question that often surfaces in conversations as we approach our 25th Reunion is: Did Harvard change us, or did we change Harvard? Well, certainly Professor Bill ("I never left HBS") Sahlman can say that he has had an impact, as can Peter Bynoe, a member of the University's Board of Overseers, and longtime HBS Alumni Board member Jed Bullard.

But most of us, I think, would have to say that HBS changed us. It gave us added confidence in our abilities, a close-knit network of friends and business contacts, a useful set of analytical skills, and -- for those who needed it -- the School also provided something to rebel against. Those were valuable gifts, and I am grateful that Jim Foley, the director of Admissions for our class, saw the possibilities in all of us.

Now, in case my reminiscing has made you feel young again, here's a thought to give us some perspective on where we are in life. When we were at HBS, it often seemed that some of the professors weren't much older than we were. But "the Dean" was definitely older -- perhaps not ancient, but there was no question that he was old. After all, what do deans do but share their long years of experience and wisdom with the young?

Just in case you were wondering, Larry Fouraker was 51 when we entered HBS -- probably about the same age that most ofus are today. Are you ready to share your wisdom?


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