10 Apr 2024

Harvard Business School Honors Five Graduates with 2024 Alumni Achievement Award


BOSTONHarvard 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 23.

Photo of the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award Winners
The 2024 Alumni Achievement Award Winners (L-R): Peter O. Crisp (MBA 1960), John B. Hess (MBA 1977), Desiree Rogers (MBA 1985), Gerald W. Schwartz (MBA 1970), and Gwill E. York (MBA 1984). Photo courtesy Susan Young.

This year’s award recipients are Peter O. Crisp (MBA 1960), co-founder and former managing partner of Venrock Associates; John B. Hess (MBA 1977), CEO of Hess Corporation; Desiree Rogers (MBA 1985), co-owner and CEO of Black Opal LLC; Gerald W. Schwartz (MBA 1970), founder and chairman of Onex Corporation; and Gwill E. York (MBA 1984), founding managing director of Lighthouse Capital Partners.

“The 2024 Alumni Achievement Award recipients exemplify Harvard Business School’s mission and are leaders who make a difference in the world,” stated Dean Srikant Datar. “Their remarkable accomplishments span a diverse array of industries and regions, yet each has contributed to their organizations in ways that benefit their communities and society. As role models for our graduating students, they have navigated complex challenges with integrity, showcasing the ability of HBS graduates to lead with purpose and passion.”

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 are role models for all who aspire to have an impact on both business and society.

Peter O. Crisp’s (MBA 1960) understated demeanor contrasts with the remarkable time he spent in the worlds of venture capital and philanthropy. His career began with a choice to diverge from the conventional career arc pursued by his peers. Inspired by an article on Laurance Rockefeller's innovative investments, Crisp wrote directly to Rockefeller and started an extraordinary relationship that spanned 45 years. His tenure as a co-founder, managing partner, president, and chairman at Venrock Associates included early investments in transformative companies like Intel and Apple, shaping the technology landscape as we know it today.

Crisp’s time at HBS was characterized by rigorous academic challenges, underpinned by a work ethic instilled from an early age. His reflections on his HBS experience underscore a period of intense learning, which played a pivotal role in honing his analytical skills and business acumen. Crisp navigated a demanding environment with resilience, setting the stage for his later achievements in the venture capital world. “HBS was very tough. You had so much to do but had to sort out what was important and what wasn’t,” he recounted, emphasizing the value of prioritizing amidst a deluge of information.

Beyond the boardroom, Crisp’s life is marked by a profound commitment to community and philanthropy, evident in his long-standing involvement with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and other non-profit organizations. Summing up his approach to life and business, he said, “I feel lucky to have been in the venture business as long as I was. You get to advance technology, support brilliant people, create jobs, and return the money you make to truly deserving causes. It doesn’t get much better than that.” This ethos, reflecting a blend of humility, hard work, and a desire to make a difference, defines Crisp’s legacy as much as his professional accomplishments.

John B. Hess (MBA 1977) stands as a testament to the enduring impact of family legacy and the transformative power of education. Growing up, Hess was deeply influenced by his father, Leon Hess, who bought a secondhand truck and started delivering fuel oil in 1933. Despite not having attended college, Leon built a remarkable global company. This narrative of hard work and entrepreneurial spirit was instilled in John from an early age, along with the values of family and integrity. “Family is the greatest treasure you have in life and your good name is the greatest gift,” he reflected, highlighting the profound guidance he received from his parents.

At HBS, Hess embraced the principles of leadership that have guided him throughout his career as a CEO. “I think by far the greatest lesson from HBS is having the courage to stand up for your convictions,” Hess stated. These lessons reinforced his belief in the role of business as a force for good in society and shaped his impact as a leader.

As Hess Corporation’s CEO, Hess emphasizes the dual imperatives of shareholder value and social responsibility. He led the Fortune 500 company through a strategic transformation into a global independent energy company engaged in the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas and an industry leader in environmental, social, and governance performance and disclosure. Hess Corporation has been the top energy stock in terms of total shareholder return over the past five years and in the prior year was the second stock overall in the S&P.

Hess’s approach to leadership reflects his commitment to ensuring that the company makes a positive social impact in the world. As he looks toward the future, including continued involvement in the energy industry, Hess remains focused on business being a force for good. “Oil and gas will be needed for decades to meet the world’s growing energy needs,” he says. “Business leaders and government officials must come together and have climate literacy, energy literacy, and economic literacy for an affordable, just, and secure energy transition.”

Desiree Rogers (MBA 1985) has crafted a unique and influential career, distinguishing herself in both business and public service. She grew up in New Orleans with a rich cultural heritage and emphasis on education and community involvement. Her upbringing in the historic Seventh Ward, surrounded by the vibrant traditions of Mardi Gras and the legacy of her ancestors, including Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, instilled in her a profound sense of identity and purpose. This cultural and familial backdrop, coupled with her parents’ focus on education and civic engagement, shaped Rogers into a dynamic leader with a deep commitment to making a difference.

Rogers’s decision to attend HBS was driven by a desire to forge her own way and make decisive contributions to the world of business. She noted the importance of finding one’s place and claiming it, despite the pressures to conform or follow a predetermined path. “You cannot be afraid. You’re not always going to succeed,” Rogers said, underscoring the values of resilience and self-awareness she honed at HBS. This mindset propelled her to choose a distinctive route post-graduation, opting for an operations role in Chicago over more traditional roles in investment banking or consulting. This decision reflected her ambition to lead and transform companies, a goal she pursued with unwavering determination and creativity.

Throughout her leadership roles at the Illinois Lottery, Peoples Energy, and Johnson Publishing, Rogers consistently demonstrated an ability to rejuvenate mature industries and connect with diverse communities. Her tenure at the White House as the first social secretary and special assistant to President Barack Obama epitomized her innovative approach to engagement and inclusivity, qualities that have defined her professional philosophy.

Rogers’ current role as CEO of Black Opal LLC embodies her lifelong commitment to empowerment, community building, and change-making. “At the core of our work is the understanding that if you feel good about yourself, there’s nothing you can’t do,” Rogers said, capturing her leadership style and her enduring impact on the industries and communities she serves.

Gerald W. Schwartz (MBA 1970) is a towering figure in private equity as founder and chair of Onex Corporation. His early years in Winnipeg, Manitoba, under the tutelage of his father, instilled in Schwartz a deep-rooted sense of business acumen and a close connection to, and respect for, the customer. “He was through and through an entrepreneur,” Schwartz remembered, emphasizing the profound influence his father had on his life. This upbringing cultivated his early interest in diverse business ventures, shaping his future curiosity as an investor in a range of industries.

Schwartz’s journey to HBS was motivated by a desire to pivot from law to what he saw as the more dynamic world of finance. At the School, Professor Abraham Zaleznik shaped his understanding of leadership and organizational behavior, as did Zaleznik’s somewhat radical comparison of entrepreneurs to juvenile delinquents. Schwartz explained why this idea still resonates: “They don’t like rules; they don’t like to be regulated; they don’t like to report to anybody. And when there’s a road that has a fork in it, they want to choose which way to go.”

At Onex, Schwartz leveraged the lessons learned from his father and his HBS experience to build a globally recognized private equity firm with nearly $50 billion in assets under management. His career, characterized by curiosity, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction, exemplifies his belief in doing what one loves. Appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006, Schwartz and his wife Heather Reisman have made numerous philanthropic contributions over the years, including a 2019 gift to the University of Toronto for an innovation campus that will serve as an anchor and launchpad for researchers and entrepreneurs working at the intersection of AI, biomedicine, and entrepreneurship.

Gwill E. York (MBA 1984) epitomizes the spirit of curiosity and innovation that is at the heart of venture capital. Growing up in Cleveland, she toured factories with her father, satisfying her curiosity for how everything from auto fenders to ball bearings were made. “I loved learning how capital and labor came together to create things,” she said. That curiosity led to a solo trip to the former Soviet Union at age 17 so she could witness and try to understand a vastly different economic system. That sense of openness, exploration, and commitment to analytical thinking laid the groundwork for her career in venture capital, where she would later influence the trajectory of multiple organizations with her strategic insights and investments.

York’s education was underscored by the message of empowerment she received from her all-girls school, which emphasized ignoring any limitations placed on her ambitions. She carried that spirit forward through her time at HBS and into her early career as she navigated the predominantly male finance industry of the early 1980s. “Venture seemed like the right place for me because it was a relatively new industry and there weren’t as many preconceived notions around who could participate,” she said.

York, the founding managing director of Lighthouse Capital Partners, enjoyed a career that spanned more than three decades, with early investments in companies including Netflix, Nvidia, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, among hundreds of others. Her work has positively impacted countless lives through the businesses she has helped to fund and grow. In addition to serving on the boards of public companies, York is deeply committed to guiding strategy at a number of nonprofit organizations, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where she serves as president of the board of trustees, and One Mind, which brings together breakthrough research and entrepreneurship to catalyze substantive change in how mental health issues are treated and perceived. “I’m working full time on things that really matter to me,” stated York, also a longtime board member at Boston’s Museum of Science and advisor at 10 Million Names, a project dedicated to recovering the names of the men, women, and children of African descent who were enslaved in pre- and post-colonial America.

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.


Mark Cautela

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.