01 Sep 2011
Meet the 2011 Alumni Achievement Award recipientsTopics:
This year’s recipients of the School’s highest honor have made remarkable contributions to their companies and communities while upholding the highest standards and values in everything they do.Â “These five distinguished alumni are role models of what leaders can do, not just in business but in society more broadly,” observes HBS Dean Nitin Nohria.
While celebrated for their public accomplishments, the honorees’ private lives reflect their devotion to family and community. We present glimpses of both in photos by Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist David Turnley, who spent a few days with each of our awardees, capturing their work and private lives in pictures and extensive interviews.Â We’ve distilled his work for the profiles that follow. For more about each recipient and to watch a video tribute produced by Turnley, visit http://www.alumni.hbs.edu/awards/.
Peter Harf, MBA 1974
Chairman and CEO, Joh. A. Benckiser SE
Peter Harf has a passion for creative thinking and a commitment to getting the job done. Over the years he transformed Joh. A. Benckiser SE (JAB) from a small, privately held German company into a successful global powerhouse. In addition to serving as chairman and CEO of JAB, Harf’s many roles illustrate his range of talents: chairman of AB InBev, the largest brewer in the world; chairman of Coty Inc., the global beauty leader; and chairman of Labelux, a luxury goods group.
“I’m not afraid of taking risks. I’m not afraid of losing,” says Harf, a native of Cologne who thrives on challenges and gave up a career in academia after earning his PhD in economics. At HBS, he gained an appreciation for teamwork. “I learned how to bounce off other people’s ideas, how the sum of the parts is always much bigger than what you can do alone,” adds Harf, who after graduation worked for BCG in San Francisco and then returned to Germany, joining Benckiser in 1981.
The role that is most important to Harf is being the cofounder and chariman of DKMS, the blood cancer cure bank. Now the most successful organization of its kind in the world, he launched it in 1991 after losing his first wife to blood cancer. With the help of his daughter Katharina, Harf expanded DKMS to the United States. Thanks to the Harfs’ efforts, DKMS has facilitated some 26,000 transplants and now has over 2.8 million registered bone marrow donors.
Seth Klarman, MBA 1982
President, The Baupost Group, LLC
For 30 years, Seth Klarman has exercised an investment strategy of evaluating businesses based on their worth and of seeking out bargains. “It’s simple enough for anyone to follow,” he says, “logical, commonsensical, and proven to work.” Klarman’s long-term outlook has served him — and large numbers of clients and community members — extremely well.
At Baupost, the Boston-based 165-person firm he has led since earning his MBA, Klarman shuns his private office, preferring instead a desk on the trading floor where he can be part of the action. When he considers the company’s accomplishments, his satisfaction stems from what Baupost has done for others. “I’m proud of the fact that virtually everybody who has been connected with the firm — employees, clients, advisers, business partners — has benefited from that experience,” he adds.
A devoted father of three, over the years Klarman has made family a top priority, taking time to coach his daughters’ soccer teams and attend his son’s piano recitals. Together with his wife, Beth, he has also given generously to medical, educational, religious, and social service organizations through their family foundation. “There comes a responsibility with success, and that is leaving the world better than you found it,” says Klarman.
Robert Kraft, MBA 1965
Founder, Chairman and CEO, The Kraft Group
In 1994, Robert Kraft paid the highest amount ever — $172 million — for the NFL’s worst team. At the time, it was the highest price paid for a sports franchise, in any sport, anywhere in the world. In time, what appeared to be a very risky decision proved to be a winning business move. Kraft’s bold bets over the years have yielded stellar results, from three Super Bowl trophies for the New England Patriots to a thriving family business. In the process, he’s had a tremendous impact on the Boston community.
As a kid growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, Kraft dreamed of going to business school, and he attributes much of his success to his HBS experience. “The case study method taught me great discipline in how to study, how to prepare, how to think,” he says. Upon graduation he joined the paper and packaging company Rand-Whitney. From there, he and his sons created The Kraft Group, which controls holdings in sports and entertainment, real estate, and private equity. Today, The Kraft Group is a global company that employs over 5,000 people worldwide.
Many of Boston’s medical, educational, and cultural institutions have benefitted from the Krafts’ philanthropy, a tribute to Kraft and his late wife Myra, who died in July after a long battle with cancer. In their almost 50 years of marriage, together the Krafts left a lasting legacy through their philanthropic endeavors, particularly in their work to help underserved children and to further cancer research.
Karen Gordon Mills, MBA 1977
Administrator, US Small Business Administration
Throughout her career, Karen Gordon Mills has owned, managed, mentored, and invested in businesses across the country. In her current role at the US Small Business Administration (SBA), she regularly visits companies across the country, often holding discussions with business owners and local bankers. After successful roles in consulting and venture capital, she is well versed in the issues of entrepreneurs and companies that look to the SBA for financial help when building a new factory or rebuilding after a natural disaster.
Mills recognizes the same determination, creativity, and sense of community that have always impressed her in working with owners of small and growing businesses. “The people we work with are tightly woven into the fabric of their communities,” she states. “They want to build their businesses and create jobs, and they want to make a difference.”
Mills lives in Brunswick, Maine, with her husband, Barry Mills, the president of Bowdoin College, and their three sons. In 2007, she answered the call to enter public service and make a difference in her own community when then governor John Baldacci of Maine asked for help in creating new jobs to soften the economic impact of a local Navy base closure. Her 2009 Presidential appointment to the SBA was both a natural fit and “a humbling honor.” Notes Mills, “I’m a great believer in America’s entrepreneurial spirit.”
— Deborah Blagg
Hüsnü Özyeğin, MBA 1969
Founder and Chairman, FiBA Group
One of Turkey’s most successful business leaders and philanthropists, Hüsnü Özyeğin is a self-made man. After working his way through college and business school — including running the Gallows Grill in Gallatin Hall at HBS — he rose through the ranks of a series of financial institutions in his native land. He then risked all his fortune to launch his own bank. “Entrepreneurship really means taking risks,” says Özyeğin, whose start-up eventually became one of Turkey’s largest private banks.
Today, he oversees the FiBA Group, a $6 billion portfolio of investments that includes shopping malls, retail stores, real estate, wind energy, and banks. Working alongside his son, Murat (MBA ’03), and daughter, Aysecan (a Stanford MBA), Özyeğin has tireless energy and regularly works 10-hour days. “I’m still a hands-on manager,” he admits.
Özyeğin’s primary philanthropic focus has been eliminating disparities in education. His foundation’s multipronged approach includes serving students at every level, from preschool through university. Although he has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to help Turkey thrive, he believes it is not financial contributions that change the world but intention. “You don’t have to have a lot of money to be involved in social responsibility,” he observes. “You have to have a good mind and a good heart.”
Class of MBA 1974, Section F
Class of MBA 1982, Section I
Class of MBA 1965, Section C
Class of MBA 1977, Section D
Class of MBA 1969, Section A