21 Apr 2023

Harvard Business School Honors Five Graduates with 2023 Alumni Achievement Award


BOSTON—Harvard Business School (HBS) has announced that five distinguished graduates will receive the School's highest honor, the Alumni Achievement Award. The award is given annually to recognize alumni who are leaders in their fields and who exemplify the mission, highest standards, and values of the School. As role models of outstanding leadership for HBS’s graduating students, the recipients will be honored at the School’s Commencement ceremony on May 25, 2023.

This year’s award recipients are Reshma Kewalramani, MD, FASN (GMP 18, 2015), CEO and president, Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Depelsha Thomas McGruder (MBA 1998), COO and treasurer, Ford Foundation; founder, Moms of Black Boys United; Raymond J. McGuire (JD/MBA 1984), president, Lazard; Antonis C. Samaras (MBA 1976), member, Hellenic Parliament, Greek prime minister, 2012–2015; and Stephen A. Schwarzman (MBA 1972), chairman, CEO, and cofounder, Blackstone.

"This year’s Alumni Achievement Award winners have established themselves as great leaders, not by making the easy choice, but by taking risks and doing what they knew needed to be done to achieve something greater than the status quo," said Dean Srikant Datar. "They serve as examples to the entire HBS community, and especially our soon-to-be graduating students, of leaders who make a difference in the world."

Throughout their careers, these remarkable graduates have contributed significantly to their organizations and communities while upholding the highest standards and values in everything they do. As such, they represent the best of the School’s alumni and are role models for all who aspire to have an impact on both business and society.

Reshma Kewalramani, MD, FASN (GMP 18, 2015). Photo courtesy Susan Young.

In 1983, at just 11 years old, Reshma Kewalramani, MD, FASN (GMP 18, 2015) moved with her family from India, ultimately relocating to a small town on Long Island, New York. Having spent the early part of her life surrounded by extended family, America was a jarring change. Kewalramani spoke English with a heavy accent and didn’t understand 1980s American pop culture—but she bonded with her teachers and discovered an aptitude for math and science. A graduate of Boston University’s seven-year BA/MD program, she spent several years seeing patients, teaching, and conducting research. “I was doing great science, but I couldn’t see how I was going to help a patient with that,” she said. “What I actually wanted to do was make medicines.”

So, Kewalramani began a career in biotechnology, joining Amgen in 2004 and serving in a variety of roles in both early- and late-stage drug development. In 2017 she joined Vertex Pharmaceuticals, becoming CEO and president in April 2020; she currently leads a global team of 4,800 people developing potentially life-changing treatments. The first woman to head a major biopharma company, Kewalramani traces her path back to that early move—from academia to biotech and from Boston to California—that changed the trajectory of her career. To this day, much like then, she asks herself five questions whenever she has a significant decision to make: “What’s best for my family? Will I learn as much as I contribute? Do I like the people? Can I see beyond the visible horizon? And then, what’s the riskier move to make?”

Depelsha Thomas McGruder (MBA 1998). Photo courtesy Susan Young.

In the summer of 2016, Depelsha McGruder (MBA 1998) saw disturbing, bloody footage of two more Black men shot by police. This time it was Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, but there had been others, including Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice. As the mother of two boys, then aged seven and four, she started a private Facebook group called Moms of Black Boys United. At the time, McGruder was a senior vice president at BET Networks, a division of Viacom. As the Facebook group took off, she suddenly found herself on late-night and weekend conference calls with other moms, crafting strategies and mission statements for what would ultimately become two nonprofit organizations: Moms of Black Boys United (MOBB United), a 501(c)(3) focused on education, awareness, support, and changing perceptions; and MOBB United for Social Change, a 501(c)(4) that aims to influence policy around how Black boys and men are treated and perceived by law enforcement and society at the local, state, and federal levels.

“It was this very raw, emotional place of pain I was feeling, that everybody else was feeling, too,” McGruder said. “It was a big learning moment; that it’s okay to open up and share.”

Today, MOBB United has more than 170,000 members; recently, it hired an executive director. The organization’s initial focus—offering educational programming and a database of resources and tools to help moms be effective advocates for their sons—has expanded to highlight the experience of Black males through its SONStories project, in which young Black men share their perspectives and experiences through their own words or artistic talents.

After serving as COO of New York Public Radio for two years, McGruder accepted the role of COO and treasurer of the Ford Foundation in June 2020. With offices located around the globe, the Ford Foundation uses its roughly $16 billion endowment fund grants to address issues including criminal justice reform, women’s rights, disability inclusion, climate change, technology access, and the preservation of natural resources and land for indigenous people.

Raymond J. McGuire (JD/MBA 1984). Photo courtesy Susan Young.

Raymond J. McGuire (JD/MBA 1984) sees his early job experiences as building blocks. As a teenager, long before he knew what investment banking was, McGuire worked in construction, as a hospital orderly, and as a law firm courier. Atop that foundation, he constructed a career in finance reliant upon the courage and determination he learned growing up.

After an early position with First Boston, McGuire went on to roles at Wasserstein Perella & Co., Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley, where he became global co-head of mergers and acquisitions. In 2005 he joined Citi, where he held a 13-year term as Citi’s global head of corporate and investment banking, the longest tenure for this position in the history of Wall Street. Afterwards, he became the vice chairman and chairman of Citi’s banking, capital markets and advisory business. Along the way he became one of the most prominent executives on Wall Street, advising on transactions valued at over $750 billion. “You find yourself being able to compete in a world that up to that point hadn’t embraced anybody who looked like you, in any significant way,” McGuire reflected.

Recently named president of Lazard, McGuire is focused on advising clients and boards as well as helping the next generation, much like he was helped, through sponsorship of others and service on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards ranging from KKR & Co., Hess Corporation, and Vornado Realty Trust to institutions including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the New York Public Library.

Antonis C. Samaras (MBA 1976). Photo courtesy Susan Young.

The son of a cardiologist, Antonis C. Samaras (MBA 1976) was steered toward a career in medicine. After he was accepted into the pre-med program at Amherst College, however, a friend convinced him to listen to a renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith discuss Russian politics, the gold standard, and US monetary policy. Samaras was so intrigued by the discussion that he changed his major to economics. When he graduated in 1974, a seven-year military dictatorship ruled Greece (it would fall a few months later).

Reluctant to return to his home country, Samaras entered the MBA Program. Speaking about his time at HBS, Samaras commented, “I came away with two takeaways that have been useful throughout my career: One, you must set goals, manage objectives, and deliver within a given timeframe; and two, with information overload, one must always discern the essential from the trivial.”

Samaras joined the New Democracy party when he returned to Greece in 1976, and soon was elected to Parliament in his father’s home district of Messinia, where he is currently serving his 14th term. In 2012, when Samaras was elected prime minister, Greece was nearly three years into a debt crisis, with aftershocks of the 2008 Financial Crisis and high levels of government debt running up against strict Eurozone fiscal requirements. Samaras’s government implemented tax increases and spending cuts and led intense negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and Eurozone finance ministers to ultimately kept Greece on the Euro, even as those moves triggered local riots and nationwide protests. He has no regrets. “To be a leader is to be yourself,” Samaras explained. He also noted that at the end of the day he must be able to say, “Yes, I was true to my beliefs.”

With elections in Greece scheduled for May 21, Samaras is actively campaigning for the continued success of the New Democracy party and intends to continue moving forward, setting goals, making plans, and serving the people.

Stephen A. Schwarzman (MBA 1972). Photo courtesy Susan Young.

Stephen A. Schwarzman (MBA 1972) has come a long way since leaving Lehman Brothers in 1985 to co-found Blackstone, originally focused on M&A and private equity, with start-up capital of $400,000. Last year, Blackstone raised $226 billion, closing out 2022 with $975 billion in assets under management. Under Schwarzman’s leadership, the firm has expanded to over 60 different strategies including real estate, private equity, credit, insurance, infrastructure, and hedge funds, and is the world’s largest alternative asset manager, with 26 offices around the globe.

After graduating from HBS Schwarzman joined Lehman Brothers and rose through the ranks. In 1980, the New York Times highlighted him as Lehman’s “merger maker,” noting Schwarzman’s keen drive to succeed, persistence, and, perhaps most striking, his ability to listen, tune in, and assess people’s needs. At the age of 36, as head of global mergers and acquisitions, Schwarzman oversaw Lehman’s 1984 sale to American Express. After the sale, Schwarzman and Pete Peterson, Lehman’s former chairman and CEO, started Blackstone. Its institutional investors include sovereign wealth funds, endowments, and pension funds—some 31 million pensioners benefit from Blackstone’s performance.

The firm’s success has also generated high levels of philanthropic activity by its employees and by Schwarzman himself. His recent gifts include the largest donation to Oxford University since the Renaissance to establish a Centre for the Humanities, including the Institute for Ethics in AI. This gift, together with a landmark commitment to MIT to establish its College of Computing, support the study of AI technologies and its ethical ramifications, an engagement that feels particularly prescient with the rise of ChatGPT. “I enjoy identifying and drawing conclusions from new patterns,” he says. “That’s where the fun is, that’s where the creativity is, so you can galvanize and excite other people to join you on the journey.”

For more than 50 years, the Alumni Achievement Awards have honored individuals whose strategic vision drives their work, whose creativity and innovation inspire those around them, whose character and values are exemplary, and whose leadership—in their careers and communities—is an example for others to follow. They truly are leaders who make a difference in the world.

More detailed information on each of the recipients can be found on the School's Alumni Achievement Awards website.

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 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, 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. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.