01 Jun 2018

Alumni Achievement Awards

Meet the 2018 recipients of the School’s highest honor––business leaders who are truly making a difference.


Photographed by Susan Young; edited by Dan Morrell
See full profiles and more photographs here.

Claudio Haddad (OPM 12, 1987)

Chairman, Insper Institute of Education and Research

My parents were both teachers. They always told us that education is the most important thing, because they can take everything away from you except your education.

I spent 20 years in the financial markets in Brazil, in a very exciting period in its history. By the time I was 52, I still had work to do, and I was fascinated by the idea of education. Insper was born in 2009. The objective is really to transform society. And for that, you have to educate people, to give them abilities, competencies, and skills… so that they can be better citizens and be more effective in society, whether they go to the private sector, government, or an NGO.

Having grandchildren is the best thing. I love them a lot. And when they start to get in trouble, I hand them back to their parents.

I am quite realistic, I think, but I’m also optimistic in the sense that the world is full of problems. But I think we’re in a much better position now, despite all the complexities, than we were 30 or 40 years ago.

I never thought of money as being the objective but rather the consequence or the result of working well.

Carla Harris (MBA 1987)

Vice Chairman, Morgan Stanley

My parents brought me up in a no-excuses household: ‘What are you doing, and how are you responsible for this outcome?’ It was ingrained in me at an early age that I had to take responsibility for myself.

My most authentic self is saying what I really feel at whatever that moment is. But the 50-something-year-old Carla is much more discerning. I still say exactly what I want to say, but I’m so much more in tune with my audience.

I make my to-do list the night before I leave my office, so when I come in the next morning, I ask one question: What does success look like today? And I define that so that I have a sense of accomplishment by the end of that day.

I am most at peace in church, when I am sitting and looking at that altar, reminding myself that whatever is burdening me at that moment, I just need to walk up to that altar and lay it right there—and don’t pick it up again.

The number one criterion when I’m choosing someone to mentor is will that person do this for somebody else—because that creates a multiplier effect. And hopefully those people will all mentor others, which amplifies my actions by my choice to invest in you.

Chris Howard (MBA 2003)

President, Robert Morris University

My narrative is the American narrative—from the great-great-grandson of slaves to the president of not one but two universities. Where else but in America could that have happened?

People ask me, ‘Hey, Chris, why are you successful?’ I say, ‘Because I have failed. Because I have had some really bad days.’ Through the grace of God, and friendship, and a sense of humor, and perspective, I’ve been able to make my way through that. Then you build those calluses, and strengthen, and you move on.

You cannot have a civilization without a steadfast and remarkable higher education system. That is what we have in the United States. To be in that [field] and to draw on my experiences in industry, and nonprofits, and the military, and athletics, and government, and intelligence—it is for me the perfect mix. I am a guy who likes to do a lot of things simultaneously. It’s not daunting to me to be all over the place and do things at 100 miles an hour for 100 days straight.

The challenges that face our society in the 21st century and going forward are not ones that could be handled in silos. Tell me one daunting problem—HIV/AIDS, terrorism, health care, race—that can be solved by one sector.

Abigail Johnson (MBA 1988)

Chairman and CEO, Fidelity Management and Research LLC

My father’s dedication certainly made an impression on me and my siblings, and it made us understand what you have to do and the persistence that you have to find inside yourself to really be successful.

My first job at Fidelity was the summer after I got out of high school in a place called the Wire Room, where you answered the phone when a customer wanted to make a transaction. I actually learned how money moved around the country, which explained something that had been a mystery.

There’s no question that our business is serving a way more diverse population than it served in prior generations, and the people who are facing those customers have to reflect that. Whether you are developing products, managing money, or facing clients, you need to understand a broader population than was required in the past.

It is really important to figure out what traditions and what aspects of your company culture need to be shed and refreshed in order to make room for new things.

I think being astute about what’s going on in the world broadly is important for any corporate leader. So I have to make sure that I get out and do that—and play that role for the organization. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to stay inside Fidelity. But I know that’s not the right approach.

Very few times in my life have I felt like I was really in a comfort zone. If you start to feel comfortable, you just know, intellectually, it’s not a good place to be. Because there is something you’re really not seeing if you’re feeling comfortable.

John Paulson (MBA 1980)

President, Paulson & Co. Inc.

My mother was a child psychologist, and very liberal-minded. She believed in helping us develop ourselves and supported us in pursuing our interests, whatever they were. Education was always a very important part of that program.

Both my parents were very strict on ethical matters. Any form of cheating, stealing, and lying was completely unacceptable. My father, for example, would never charge a personal expense as a business expense. One of my first jobs when I was 15 was keeping the books for his firm, and he was very precise in allocating lunch, travel, gas, parking, and other expenses between his personal and business accounts. When I pay a bill today, I hear my father’s voice in my head, and it’s always a clear reminder of what is the right thing to do.

I’m sure that graduates of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will create firms with future market values of $5 billion, $50 billion, and even $500 billion. The impact of their creation will be a thousand times what I contributed. We are at the beginning of what will be a very long and prosperous future for Harvard in engineering.

Education is the great equalizer. The path to equal opportunity is through education. Armed with a great education, it doesn’t matter where you came from.

What I would say to younger people who are thinking about what they want to do in life is do something you’re passionate about. And then you’ll achieve success and happiness on terms that are important to you—and in the end, those are the only terms that matter.

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of OPM 12
Class of MBA 1987, Section I
follow @carlaannharris
Class of MBA 2003, Section K
follow @DrChrisHoward
Class of MBA 1988, Section D
Class of MBA 1980, Section D

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