01 Dec 2017
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In Service of Others

Mike Zak (MBA 1981)

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Mike Zak (MBA 1981)

After studying engineering at Cornell and serving four years in the Marine Corps, Mike Zak (MBA 1981) arrived at HBS in 1979, one of only a handful of military veterans in his class. The transition was not easy. “I came from a world where the lives of many people depended on decisions you made, where your word is your bond,” says Zak.

About eight weeks into his first year at HBS, Zak began to appreciate the extraordinary power of engaging with his classmates and professors. “I became a passionate believer in the case method,” he says.

Zak recognizes what veterans of the US Armed Services can add to—and gain from—the HBS experience. To encourage more veterans to apply to HBS, he recently funded an MBA pilot program that waives the application fee for anyone who has served in the US military. “Our military students bring a unique set of experiences to class discussions,” observes Chad Losee (MBA 2013), managing director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid. “Veterans are very aware of the fact that we all benefit from this nation—its resources, its history, the things that it hands down to us,” adds Zak. “Having more veterans in the classroom at HBS strikes me as a very good idea.”

“Serving in the military is a tremendous leadership experience,” Zak says. “Officers eat last. We are trained to understand that the lives of others matter more than ours. It’s about the mission, and it’s about service.” That sense of service has throughout his 30-year career as a venture capitalist at Charles River Ventures. “Building a successful career is not about the money,” he says. “It’s about whether you left something better off than you found it, whether you improved the nation’s competitiveness, and whether you created jobs.”

If his gift increases the number of veterans who contribute to and benefit from the HBS experience, Zak says that “it will be an investment wisely made.”

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1981, Section F

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