26 May 2022

Harvard Business School’s MBA Class of 2022 Celebrates Class Day

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BOSTON—Yesterday, all 770 members of the Harvard Business School (HBS) MBA Class of 2022 gathered in the sunshine on Baker Lawn to celebrate the first in-person Class Day in two years, in advance of today’s Commencement exercises. Along with their family, friends, and guests, they honored five Alumni Achievement Award recipients and six faculty teaching award recipients, and listened to the wise words of their classmates.

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April Weathers, co-chair of the Student Association (SA) Class Day Committee, opened the event with an acknowledgement of the tribal land on which the School is situated, the more than 70 individuals enslaved by Harvard leaders, faculty, and staff between 1636 and 1783, and the 21 lives lost in Uvalde, Texas, the day before. “These acknowledgements are intended to stand alongside our celebrations this week and to recognize ongoing efforts by the University and its affiliates to consider their history and the present-day implications of that history. To our guests, we thank you for joining the Class of 2022 as the first class to see some of these efforts come to fruition,” she said.

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Co-chair Brandon Angelini introduced SA co-presidents Brett Andersen and Irvin Gómez, who noted the big and small actions that contributed to the sense of community that grounded and supported them, and thanked their fellow students, staff, faculty, family, and friends for their guidance, wisdom, and time.

Weathers and Angelini then presented Faculty Teaching Awards to Assistant Professor Mattias Fibiger, Senior Lecturer Nori Gerardo Lietz, Senior Lecturer Emily McComb, and Professor David Moss, for their exceptional contributions to the HBS experience.

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Student speaker Peter James Kiernan presented one last case to explore what it means to make a difference in the world. Hiking in Peru with his wife last summer, he received a series of frantic messages. Kiernan’s interpreter from his Marine service in Afghanistan was being targeted by the Taliban and attempting to flee with his wife and children. As the country’s government collapsed, vengeance for those who had assisted American efforts was imminent. Could Kiernan help get him and his family to safety?

Putting his vacation on pause, he leveraged all his contacts, joined volunteers engaged in similar efforts, and worked tirelessly (and sleeplessly) to get them and a fellow Marine’s interpreter and family extracted safely. Kiernan didn’t choose when he would make a difference, what that difference would be, or how to measure it, yet he made a profound difference in the lives of these individuals. In a poignant surprise, Kiernan recognized the two interpreters, Haq and Khalid, as his honored guests. To a spontaneous standing ovation, he thanked them for their service.

“The mission of HBS is to educate leaders who will make a difference in the world. Will, not might or should; it is both a prophecy and a command. It’s a requirement, an obligation,” said Kiernan. “One of the most profound comments I’ve ever heard in the classroom is ‘this MBA degree is not an asset but a liability.’ Helping get Haq and Khalid out of Afghanistan was an advance, an installment, a coupon clipped to pay down an obligation that we all share. An obligation to make the world a better place. We can't do it alone, we can't sacrifice depth for breadth, and we can't afford to wait.”

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Weathers then introduced Class Day Distinguished Speaker Robert Ryan (MBA 1970), retired senior vice president and CFO of Medtronic and a recipient of one of the 2022 Alumni Achievement Awards. After greeting the graduates, Ryan reflected on his experience as one of the few Black students on campus and how his time at HBS was critical to his personal and professional development, before speaking of a more recent and deeply meaningful accomplishment: reviving and rebuilding the Estes Funeral Chapel, the only African American funeral home and oldest Black business in Minneapolis. Amid the city’s civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd, the new Estes Funeral Chapel remained protected and unscathed—and handled Floyd’s memorial service. He didn’t accept a penny for his five years of effort, he said, yet it holds tremendous value to him and the local community.

“Look beyond the dollars involved and consider actions that improve human lives. Often difficult to quantify, the value can be immeasurable,” said Ryan. “Leading change is often accompanied by pressure. The privilege of HBS is the opportunity to take all that this institution is and has been into an exciting and unknown future. Embrace that and embrace your journey, but do it with principle and purpose that come from what you’ve learned here, the people you’ve met, and the family and friends that support you.”

Dean Srikant Datar then thanked the Class Day speakers and organizers. “For me, and for all of us who work at Harvard Business School, this moment is one when we get to express not just our tremendous pride in what you have accomplished, but also our tremendous optimism for what you will achieve. We can't wait to see what you will do, and become.”

Class Day concluded with brief remarks from Weathers, who gave a final thanks to the speakers, faculty, Class Day Committee, and partners, friends, and family. “And with that, we’ve both revived and concluded another milestone. Tomorrow, we will have finished at least part of what we set out to do after enrolling. May we all take a moment to soak it up and try to remain present as this experience comes officially to a close. Congratulations, Class of 2022, set out now to make your difference in the world.”

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 70 open enrollment Executive Education programs and 55 custom programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who make a difference in the world, shaping the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.