13 Oct 2008
Harvard Business School Confers Alumni Achievement Awards
Outstanding Graduates Honored at Centennial Global Business Summit
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L to R: James D. Wolfensohn (MBA '59), John Doerr
(MBA '76), Meg Whtiman (MBA '79), Anand Mahindra
(MBA '81), Jeffrey R. Immelt (MBA '82)
Photo: Tom Fitzsimmons

BOSTON — As part of its Centennial celebration, Harvard Business School (HBS) today conferred its highest recognition, the Alumni Achievement Award, on five distinguished graduates: John Doerr, a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman & CEO of General Electric; Anand G. Mahindra, vice chairman and managing director of the Indian multinational Mahindra & Mahindra; Meg Whitman, former president & CEO of eBay; and James D. Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank.

Dean Jay Light presented the awards at the HBS Centennial Global Business Summit, a two-day event being held on the School's campus in Boston and the culmination of its anniversary celebration. After receiving the award, the recipients participated in a panel discussion focusing on "Leadership for the 21st Century" with journalist and TV host Charlie Rose.

"For four decades, the Alumni Achievement Awards have recognized extraordinary alumni who embody the highest standards of accomplishment and integrity," said Dean Jay Light. "The recipients represent the best in our alumni body. They are exemplary role models who have truly made a difference in the world."

Presented annually since 1968, the HBS Alumni Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have contributed immeasurably to their profession, industry and community.

John Doerr (MBA '76) is one of Silicon Valley's most successful venture capitalists. Working side by side with entrepreneurs, he has funded companies that have had a dramatic impact on life in the 21st century, from online retail giant Amazon.com to Internet behemoth Google to synthetic biology leader Amyris. He is a leading advocate of innovation and investment in green technologies.

Doerr came to HBS after earning engineering degrees from Rice University. His education continued at chipmaker Intel, where he gained experience in managing people, marketing, and sales and began a long career of transforming good ideas into successful businesses.

Since joining Kleiner Perkins in 1980, Doerr has had tremendous influence in many areas, including information technology and science-based businesses. Over the years, he has helped shape many of the building blocks of the information age, including Sun Microsystems, Intuit, and Netscape.

Recently, much of Doerr's attention has focused on clean energy and the climate crisis, which he believes is the most urgent problem facing our planet. In May, Kleiner Perkins announced its second fund in green technology, bringing its total investment in green solutions to $1.2 billion.

Doerr's influence transcends the business world. A tireless advocate of education, ten years ago he cofounded the NewSchools Venture Fund to promote innovation in education. He then helped pass a California proposition that resulted in the allocation of an additional $23 billion for the state's public schools.

Jeffrey R. Immelt (MBA'82) had already built an impressive nineteen-year career at GE when he was tapped in 2001 to head the storied company that has pioneered in the development of everything from electric fans to jet engines to x-ray machines. Today, under Immelt's leadership, GE is a $173 billion organization of more than 300,000 people that still has roots in the past, even as it rides a wave of 21st century innovation.

Immelt came to GE directly from HBS, holding various positions in the company's plastics and appliances businesses before being named CEO of GE Medical Systems in 1997.

During his tenure, GE has seen significant changes, with acquisitions in energy, aviation, water treatment, and healthcare. Over half of GE's revenues came from outside the United States last year, and Immelt has made it a priority to ensure that the ranks of upper management - and the way it trains people and develops products -- reflect this new reality. The company currently has research centers in Munich, Shanghai, and Bangalore, in addition to its U.S location in Niskayuna, New York. The breakthroughs occurring in these facilities include the identification of a group of protein biomarkers as the precursor to Alzheimer's, a discovery that could potentially improve millions of lives and save the health care system $50 to $60 billion each year.

Anand G. Mahindra (MBA '81) has been driving Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M;) into the ranks of the world's global corporations since 1991, when he joined the utility vehicle and tractor maker founded by his grandfather and granduncle in 1945. As part of a philosophy of diversification and globalization Anand Mahindra implemented in 1994, M&M; today is a $6.6 billion enterprise involved in many activities, including information technology, logistics, infrastructure development, and financial services, as well as automotive and farm equipment.

Mahindra knew that M&M; would not only have to reorganize but look beyond India's borders when the country reopened its market in 1991and foreign multinationals prepared to renew their efforts in the country. He created a new organizational structure that established a "federation" of companies (now numbering 98) grouped in "sectors" (now eight) headed by presidents with general management responsibilities. Unlike a conglomerate, each sector has one flagship company with its own listing on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

He also formed joint ventures to transform the old-line Indian firm into a global powerhouse, beginning with a 1993 deal that enabled Ford to manufacture and market the Escort in India. In 2002, M&M; launched its own sports utility vehicle, the Scorpio, now being exported to countries such as Italy, Russia and South Africa. A hybrid version will hit U.S. showrooms within a few years.

A recent limited venture with Renault to manufacture the French carmaker's low-cost sedan, the Logan, is now exploring ways to expand the alliance to include new products and markets. M&M; also recently made news with its entry into the media business, primarily film production.

Meg Whitman (MBA '79) established a reputation as an innovative, can-do leader at firms that are American household names -- Disney, Stride Rite, Procter & Gamble -- and then applied her multifaceted talents to a fledgling start-up auction site. During her ten years at the helm, eBay grow from a small operation to an internationally recognized brand that has redefined commerce. Since stepping down from eBay last spring, she has focused on the public and social sectors.

When Whitman joined eBay as CEO in 1998, the two-year-old private company had thirty employees and $4.7 million in revenue. Today, eBay, which she took public that year, has over 16,000 employees, with revenues of $7.7 billion in 2007. Some 1.3 million people make some part of their living selling through eBay, which is now in 39 markets around the world.

Whitman built the brand by listening and responding to customers and through smart acquisitions, expanding into areas that work well with the eBay model.

Whitman's 25 years prior to joining eBay seemed tailored to preparing her to take the helm of a world-changing business. After earning her MBA, she picked up customer experience at P&G; and later at Disney, where she ran the Consumer Products Division. As vice president of Bain & Company, she gained industry experience that she later applied as head of the Children's Group at Stride Rite and as CEO of FTD, the floral products company. She also was a general manager of the Preschool Division of toy maker Hasbro.

During his 30 years in international finance, James Wolfensohn (MBA '59) had remarkable successes that only strengthened his belief that those who prosper in business are obligated to serve the greater good. His decade-long presidency of the World Bank provided the ultimate opportunity to pursue that mission on a global scale. Wolfensohn's subsequent involvement with the Middle East peace process and recent endeavors to nurture businesses in emerging economies and promote sustainable sources of energy show his continuing determination to bridge the gap between policies and people.

Wolfensohn is deeply involved in the work of the Wolfensohn Center for Development, a new global poverty research initiative at the Brookings Institution. He is also chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, a privately held firm that invests in alternative energy initiatives and backs companies that do business in emerging economies.

His current work, which reflects his continuing belief that the growing gap between poor and wealthy nations must be a priority, is the latest chapter in a celebrated career marked by a succession of high-profile accomplishments. Beyond his leadership of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005 and then an appointment as special envoy for Gaza disengagement for the Quartet on the Middle East, his distinguished career has comprised several decades in the investment world, service on nonprofit boards and think tanks, and the management of the financial turnaround of both Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In 1981, Wolfensohn launched his own firm in New York and rapidly became one of Wall Street's most successful investors, while simultaneously spending 25 percent of his time supporting arts and nonprofit organizations.