01 Oct 1998
A Long and Winding Road
Reflections by 1973's Class Secretaryby Wayne R. Vibert (MBA 1973)Topics:
It hardly seems possible, but 25 years have passed since our class left Soldiers Field. At the time we were a bit dazed by the political and social upheaval around us, yet confident that our hard-earned MBA credential would stand us in good stead as we set forth in the uncertain business climate of the early 1970s.
Our two years at the School were marked by long days in the insular environment of Aldrich and even longer evenings spent cracking cases and researching papers at Baker. Our academic reverie was sometimes interrupted by visitors who brought a sense of the important events beyond the Charles. A passionate Gloria Steinem rocked us with her irreverence. From Washington, George Romney and Caspar Weinberger took the campus by storm. Ray Kroc of McDonald's reminded us, "I still put my pants on one leg at a time," when asked how much his personal fortune had declined after a bad day on Wall Street. And W.R. Grace's Peter Grace told us he wouldn't invest in Third World countries unless he had over 50 percent ownership. What would he say today? Verbosity ruled. Classroom performances were supplemented by mutterings about the 6 p.m. deadline for the WAC, about that research paper due in April, about the $3,400 we paid in tuition. Did we dare take time to view Citizen Kane in Baker 100? Could we justify grabbing a six-pack and watching the B-School Blades on a Friday night? Or should we buckle down and read some cases to get ahead of - or more likely, catch up on - the workload?
The job market confronted us with a reality check during our second year - factors that weighed in were income, location, personal satisfaction, and professional growth, to name a few. Having grappled with these decisions, we graduated into a changing society. The oil crisis threatened to sink Japan. Nixon resigned. Gerald Ford inherited, and lost, the presidency. Reaganomics replaced Carter's idealism. Communism moved toward capitalism, and our class, as well as our society, faced challenges and opportunities we'd never expected.
The Berlin Wall came down. Thatcher, Gorbachev, Marcos, and Suharto came and went. Vietnam vets were joined by their Gulf War counterparts in the struggle to put their lives back together after the trauma of armed combat. Noriega was captured. Castro wasn't. The effects of South Africa's apartheid continue to reverberate. We survived Archie Bunker and struggle now with Beavis and Butthead. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Bre-X, Microsoft, S&Ls, celebrity murders, sexual politics, Berkshire and Buffett, and the Dow approaches 10,000 despite Black Monday. Ma Bell, Princess Di, The Duke, and Chairman Frank Sinatra passed from the scene.
How to deal with change, turmoil, the unexpected? All too often we have been surprised by our lack of foresight close to home. The traditional family structure has broadened to accommodate divorce, single parenthood, common-law partnerships, and same-sex marriages. We are held together with rebuilt knees and hips and repaired with laser surgery. Laptop computers, the Internet, and cell phones make the 24-hour workday a virtual reality. As we journey even deeper into middle age, will we decide to restructure the priorities we've placed on work, family, and community involvement?
Did our Well-Known Eastern Business School prepare us for this long and winding road? Perhaps nothing could have. But HBS gave us tools for coping with challenges and encouraged us to stretch our minds, practice collaboration and cooperation, develop precepts and concepts, look for options, and communicate - effectively. At Soldiers Field we learned how to gauge uncertainty, weigh aftereffects, and make decisions without reinventing the wheel. Above all, the School supported us in becoming leaders who could make a difference. More than a few of us have.
Members of the Class of 1973 may remember Wayne Vibert as a Canadian who sported not only a hockey stick but also an irrepressible enthusiasm for presidential candidate George McGovern. Elected class secretary upon graduation, Vibert has maintained strong ties to HBS and has zealously attended every reunion. He has served as a financial officer in several Canadian companies, and he currently works with Investors Group Financial Services Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta, where he is a certified financial planner.