Dean’s Remarks: Sunday, June 12, 2022

Read Dean Jonathan Levin’s remarks to the graduating Class of 2022 and the returning PhD graduates of the Class of 2020 at their graduation ceremony.

Graduates, honored guests, faculty, staff, families, and friends, welcome to the graduation ceremony for Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Maya Angelou, the great poet, joined Twitter when she was in her 80s. Perhaps not surprisingly, she turned out to have a gift for it. In 2013, the year before she died, she tweeted: “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”

I feel like that too. This is a wonderful day. A unique day. And I’m so glad we’re here together.

I would like to begin by recognizing some of the people here today.

Today, we have more than 500 students graduating from the MBA, MSx, and PhD programs. Let’s welcome our graduating students.

GSB faculty and staff have played a pivotal role in the experience of our students. Could I ask the faculty and staff to stand for a moment of thanks?

We also are joined by families and friends who have provided support, advice, and most importantly, love. Let’s take a moment to recognize our families and friends.

A graduation ceremony is about celebrating what you’ve achieved and what you will go on and do. This year, we have to start by recognizing the extraordinary period during which you have been students at the GSB. It has been unlike any other class.

So, in keeping with the theme of this year’s GSB Show: “Let’s Circle Back.”

Two years ago, many of you decided to come to business school in the early days of the global pandemic. There was enormous uncertainty. There was no imminent vaccine. It wasn’t clear how the program would go, when we would resume classes in person, what would happen to the job market or your careers.

When you arrived in September 2020, the signs were not auspicious. Orientation and classes were on Zoom. Strict rules left the JMac laundry room off-limits. California wildfires filled the air with smoke and turned the sky red. And let’s not forget the campus blackout. Your first weeks had all the ingredients of a dystopian novel.

And yet, you adapted. You made the experience your own. You figured out how to learn, to make friendships, even to take the occasional trip off campus, of which no more will be said. Arguably, in forcing more small group interactions, the adverse conditions brought you closer together. They might even have led to a few marriages.

The pandemic improved with the rollout of the vaccines. And things improved at the GSB. We moved back to in-person classes. We removed the zip ties that kept the outdoor furniture six feet apart. We had speakers, conferences, and class receptions. This year, the energy of the GSB campus was restored and renewed.

Every year, the GSB faculty and staff gain a sense of the graduating class — their spirit and character. One thing we will remember about the Class of 2022: your sense of appreciation. This year, like never before, students, and all of us, have appreciated the opportunity of being at Stanford.

It brings up an important point: perspective matters.

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before,” Maya Angelou wrote.

It’s easier to appreciate the ordinary, the usual, the plentiful, when we have experienced the alternative.

So yes, part of your experience here has been practice in dealing with uncertainty, ambiguity, even loss; and creating your own, unique experience in the midst of sometimes suboptimal conditions. And part of it has been emerging from that experience with energy, optimism, and appreciation.

That will serve you extraordinarily well in your careers and lives.

During your time here, you also have had the opportunity to think about what the leaders you want to be — and the leaders that the world needs.

You are graduating at a time of enormous change: an acceleration of digital technology, a rethinking of work, a recognition that business must help to solve the biggest challenges of our time.

It is a moment when your Stanford education and the leadership skills you’ve developed here will be most valuable. I hope that as you leave here, you pursue the next phase of your careers in ways that are filled with meaning and contribute to the greater good.

I’d like to close with another Maya Angelou tweet, also from 2013: “My wish for you is joy. When you wish someone joy, you wish peace, love, prosperity, health, happiness… all the good things.”

Congratulations again, Class of 2022.