02 Dec 2018
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Fostering Great Leadership

Ken Olivier (MBA 1979) and Angela Nomellini
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Ken Olivier (MBA 1979) and Angela Nomellini

While an undergraduate at Stanford, Ken Olivier met a Ford Motor Company executive he admired. “I asked his advice on how I could get to his position,” he says. “That’s how I ended up earning both business and law degrees.”

After finishing law school at the University of California, Olivier set his sights on HBS. He was attracted by the School’s reputation, the alumni network, and the location. “I was born and raised on the West Coast, so Boston was a foreign part of the world to me,” he says. “I was newly married, and my wife, Angela, and I were excited to live in New England.”

Olivier credits the School with fostering his personal development. “HBS challenged my assumptions about what I knew, what my skills were, and what my limitations were,” he explains.

Ultimately Olivier found himself back on the West Coast. After writing dozens of letters to Bay Area companies, he landed a summer job at Dodge & Cox, an investment management company headquartered in San Francisco. “The top three people there were HBS alums,” he remembers. “That summer job turned into a career.”

Over the course of 35 years, Olivier rose through the ranks—to president in 2006, CEO in 2011, and chairman in 2013. During his career, he often found himself experiencing déjà vu. “Over and over again, I encountered situations that harkened back to HBS cases,” he says. “And the insights those cases provided were still relevant years later.”

The Oliviers have been consistent donors to the HBS Fund for many years and first gave out of gratitude for the benefits Ken received, and later to help preserve the School’s excellence. “I wanted to do what I could to help HBS remain a premier business school,” he explains. In the past decade, the couple have shifted their philanthropy toward causes with social investment returns, including fostering leadership. “The world needs great leaders—people who recognize that complex problems don’t have two-sentence solutions,” he explains. “And HBS trains leaders really well.”

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1979, Section H

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