17 Apr 2024

Desiree Rogers (MBA 1985), Co-Owner and CEO of Black Opal, to be Harvard Business School’s 2024 Class Day Speaker

Will Address the Class of 2024 Day Before Harvard Commencement Exercises

BOSTON—Desiree Rogers (MBA 1985), co-owner and CEO of Black Opal LLC and a venerated figure known for her transformative leadership across various industries, will be the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Class Day Speaker on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. The ceremony is set to take place on Baker Lawn at the the campus of the School in Boston. The day’s events will include a welcome from the co-presidents of the MBA Class of 2024, the presentation of the Faculty Teaching Awards, and a student address.

Photo of 2024 Class Day Distinguished Speaker Desiree Rogers
2024 Harvard Business School Class Day Distinguished Speaker Desiree Rogers (MBA 1985). Photo courtesy Susan Young.

Rogers is celebrated for her innovative approach to leadership and commitment to combining business with meaningful community initiatives. At Black Opal LLC, she is leading the rejuvenation of two storied brands for people of color: Black Opal and Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Alongside this work Rogers continues to establish platforms that allow discussion of important social issues, reinforcing her belief in the power of business to effect positive change.

“At the core of our work is a belief that businesses should have a commitment to improving the lives of the consumers that they serve” said Rogers, emphasizing her personal mission to empowering communities.

Rogers has enjoyed a multifaceted career devoted to transforming mature organizations in the private and public sectors, including the Illinois Lottery, Peoples Energy, and Allstate. In 2009, Rogers was invited to serve as the Special Assistant and Social Secretary to President Obama, where she executed over 250 innovative and cultural events emphasizing the vision of the White House as the “People’s House.”

“The seat you take might be very different from everyone else’s seat. Claim it,” Rogers advised, reflecting on her philosophy of carving unique paths in one’s professional and personal life.

After leaving the White House, Rogers joined Johnson Publishing as CEO, leading efforts to digitally reposition Ebony and Jet magazines, while exploring other potential opportunities for the firm’s subsidiaries. In 2013 , she became the chairman of the tourism board Choose Chicago, introducing and overseeing a digital marketing campaign that resulted in a record-breaking 57 million visitors in 2018.

Born in New Orleans, Rogers received a BA in political science from Wellesley College and has one daughter, Victoria. She serves on the boards of Inspired Entertainment and Stagwell Global Media and is involved with numerous nonprofits, including the American Cancer Society, where she sits on the board, and Gyrls in the H.O.O.D.

The HBS Class Day ceremony, organized by a committee of second-year MBA students, is a cherished tradition that precedes the Harvard University Commencement. It is open to members of the graduating class and their guests, as well as HBS alumni, faculty, and staff.

For more details on the HBS Class Day and Harvard University Commencement exercises, please visit HBS Commencement 2024.


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.