01 Jun 2012
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From Fellowship Recipient to ‘The Most Influential Business Thinker On Earth’


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Renowned as the leading authority on disruptive innovation, Professor Clay Christensen attributes his remarkable success as an entrepreneur and as a scholar to his humble beginnings as a fellowship recipient at HBS. After receiving his acceptance letter, Christensen recalls his moment of disbelief—immediately followed by financial anxiety. “I was newly married, we had no money, and a baby on the way. And when I found out that HBS was going to help me, I was so grateful. It would have been very difficult for me to get my MBA had I not received assistance from HBS.”

Currently the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at HBS, Christensen earned his MBA in 1979 with the assistance of two fellowships: the Sidney J. Weinberg–Goldman, Sachs & Co. Fellowship and the Donald Kirk David Fellowship. (These funds have provided assistance to more than 450 students over the years and continue to support students today.) After establishing and growing CPS Technologies into a thriving business, at the age of 40 with five children at home, Christensen returned to HBS to pursue doctoral studies. He was awarded his DBA in 1992 and hasn’t looked back since.

Named last year by Thinkers50, the biennial global ranking of management thinkers, as “the most influential business thinker on earth,” Christensen has profoundly altered the field of business management over the last 30 years and currently applies his disruptive innovation framework to advancing education and health care.

Referring to HBS as a “distribution mechanism by which we can help people that we could not directly reach,” Christensen encourages alumni to consider their relationship with HBS as a partnership in helping to change the world.

Key to achieving this goal, he stresses, is to continue to invest in fellowships so that students will have the same opportunity he was afforded. “One of the things I worry most about for HBS’s future is that if we fail to preserve the diversityin the classroom, we won’t be able to serve society,” he remarks. Leaders can come from anywhere, so by establishing a fellowship at HBS, you never know when you will be launching the next Clay Christensen.

To hear more from Clay Christensen and to learn more about the impact of MBA fellowships, visit www.alumni.hbs.edu/fellowships/.

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