BOSTON— Harvard Business School (HBS) recently bestowed its most important honor, the Alumni Achievement Award, on five distinguished graduates: Susan L. Decker, former president of Yahoo! Inc.; James L. Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Allan W.B. Gray, chairman of Orbis Investment Management, Ltd.; James A. Lovell, commander of NASA's Apollo 13 lunar mission and now president of Lovell Communications; and Marvin S. Traub, former CEO and president of Bloomingdale's, Inc. and now president of Marvin Traub Associates, Inc. Award recipients participated in a panel discussion held before a large audience of MBA students and other members of the HBS community in Burden Auditorium on the School's campus in Boston.
James Dimon (MBA '82), Marvin S. Traub (MBA '49), Allan W.B. Gray (MBA '65), James A. Lovell (AMP 62, 1971), Susan L. Decker (MBA '86) Photo: Susan Young
"This year's Alumni Achievement Award recipients possess the combination of competence and character that is the essence of what we try to achieve at Harvard Business School," said Dean Nitin Nohria. "They exemplify the mission of the School —"to educate leaders who make a difference in the world —" and thus inspire others to follow in their footsteps and have an impact on both business and society."
Presented annually since 1968, the HBS Alumni Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have contributed immeasurably to their profession, industry, and community.
Susan L. Decker (MBA '86) began her successful Wall Street career at the investment bank of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, where as an equity analyst, she consistently received the top rating in Institutional Investor magazine's poll of money managers. She eventually went on to serve as global head of research, where she helped design and build DLJ's global equity research business.
Decker's next move was to Yahoo!, one of the companies she had worked with as an analyst. During her nine-year tenure, she ran a tight financial ship as CFO, built the company's advertiser and publisher group as executive vice president, and oversaw global business operations as president. Since leaving Yahoo! in 2009, Decker has taken time out from the corporate world to focus on what she feels matters most—her family and giving back to society.
A Chartered Financial Analyst, Decker has continued to put her analytical skills to work as a director of three major companies — Berkshire Hathaway, Intel, and Costco — and as a trustee of Save the Children. Her interest in entrepreneurship led her back to HBS, where she served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, applying her technology know-how to help HBS develop a Silicon Valley Immersion Experience Program, a January-term MBA offering.
James Dimon (MBA '82) has executed operational and management practices that are legendary — as a strategist who can integrate fractured businesses; as a dealmaker who bought two failing banks during the extraordinary circumstances of the past two years; as a relentless risk manager who believes in a "fortress balance sheet" and battens down the hatches to prepare for tough times ahead; and as a charismatic leader who focuses on recruiting, training, and developing the people in his organization.
While competitors imploded during the economic downturn, with Dimon in charge, JPMorgan Chase emerged as a global leader in financial services, with a strong reputation for social and corporate responsibility.
Dimon came to JPMorgan from Bank One, where as chairman and CEO, he turned a $511 million loss in 2000 into record earnings of $3.5 billion by 2003, when he engineered its sale to JPMorgan. Previously, he had worked at American Express, Salomon Smith Barney, the Travelers Group, and Citigroup, which he helped build into the world's largest financial services company through tight management and astute mergers.
Both Dimon's father and grandfather worked as stockbrokers, but he never felt forced to go down that path. A father of three daughters, Dimon says he will be happy if his children contribute to making the planet a better place.
Allan W.B. Gray (MBA '65) has built a successful career around finding and investing in companies that are priced well below his assessment of their intrinsic value.
After earning his MBA and sharpening his skills as a portfolio manager with Fidelity, in 1973 Gray returned to his home country of South Africa and established Allan Gray Investment Counsel, a firm dedicated to meeting clients' needs, including delivering superior returns through rigorous company research.
While many financial institutions then employed huge sales forces, Gray believed a more concentrated focus on asset management and service would yield superior results. The approach worked so well that the company became the largest privately owned, independent asset management firm in southern Africa.
Anticipating the end of exchange controls in South Africa, Gray left the country with his son, William (MBA '93), to establish Orbis Investment Management in Bermuda in 1990. Today William serves as president at Orbis, which controls about $20 billion in funds. The pair is restructuring Orbis and Allan Gray Limited to provide for continuity and to ensure that the profits from the family's controlling interest in the businesses will be devoted to philanthropy.
James A. Lovell (AMP 62, 1971) has exemplified leadership skills that became a matter of life or death in April 1970. As the commander of the Apollo 13 mission to the moon, Lovell and his crew were faced with a serious problem: a fault in the electrical equipment had caused a loss of power and oxygen. As the world watched, the astronauts aborted their mission and, remarkably, were able to return safely to earth.
The Apollo 13 experience taught Lovell the importance of teamwork, a lesson he now shares with audiences around the world in his career as a public speaker. He also draws on his 25 years in the business world, where he has led firms in the transportation and telecommunications industries. Closer to home, he launched a more down-to-earth venture: Lovells at Lake Forest, a restaurant outside Chicago.
A sought-after expert on space, education, and science, he received the Space Foundation's Lifetime Space Achievement Award in 2003. He currently serves on the boards of Chicago's Alder Planetarium and of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
Marvin S. Traub (MBA '49) transformed retailing in the 20th century. During his 41 years at Bloomingdale's, more than half at the helm, Traub expanded the store — first nationally and then globally — and launched the careers of many of the designers that are today's most popular brands: Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan, among them. At the same time, he mentored dozens of employees who went on to lead major stores and brands.
After he retired from Bloomingdale's in 1992, Traub's second career began when he founded Marvin Traub Associates, a diversified consulting firm specializing in retailing, brand, and real estate development focusing on international markets. His client base includes companies in 12 countries. Now in his mid-eighties, Traub has not slowed down or lost his enthusiasm for work. This spring he planned and helped to open a 200,000-square-foot Bloomingdale's in Dubai.
At Traub's side throughout has been his wife, Lee, whom he married after his first year at HBS. The pair still travel together — on his business trips and to spend time with their three children and four grandchildren.