eBay CEO John Donahoe Shares Leadership Insights at 2013 Graduation

Graduation address illuminates four key principles of leadership, including authenticity and a passion for lifelong learning.

June 17, 2013

Stanford GSB graduates at diploma ceremony

491 degree candidates will take their first step into futures of impact and meaning after receiving their diploma at the ceremony held on Saturday, June 15. (Photo by Natalie White)

“For me, creating a life and career filled with impact and meaning is about leadership,” John Donahoe told a group of 491 degree candidates during the Stanford Graduate School of Business diploma ceremony on Saturday, June 15, at Frost Amphitheater.

The eBay CEO, who received his MBA from Stanford in 1986, elaborated upon four key leadership principles he has learned over the years to help the graduates stay true to themselves throughout their lives and careers. He encouraged his listeners to focus on “being an authentic, purpose-driven leader, to learning throughout your life, to building character during the tough times, and to having a career and a life that is fully enriching and rewarding.”

These four principles have guided Donahoe throughout his own life and career, which has included turning around an ailing eBay and helping Bain & Company escape bankruptcy. Both experiences were character building in ways that often only come during challenging times, he noted.

As he observed to the graduates, “In difficult times, you get a sense of who you are, what you’re made of, and what’s really important to you. It is during the difficult periods that you learn the importance of trust and teamwork. It is during the difficult periods that you learn how to persevere and have faith.”

His comments resonated with Dean Garth Saloner’s own observations to the graduates, as he urged them to have the courage to take on the difficult issues of our day. “There are big and important challenges, and the world needs change agents who are willing to tackle them with passion and with innovative ideas.”

Dean Saloner also marked the occasion by thanking faculty, staff, and the families of graduating students, as well as recognizing special guests, including Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.

Degrees Awarded

The afternoon ceremony honored 389 students who received MBA degrees, 19 PhDs, 80 who earned the Sloan Master of Science degree, and 3 Master of Arts in Business Research degrees. Of the students receiving MBA degrees, 17 also earned degrees in education, 8 earned degrees in law, 2 earned a Humanities and Sciences degree in public policy, and 13 were awarded earth sciences degrees from the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources.

Larissa Tiedens, Jonathan B. Lovelace Professor of Organizational Behavior and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, acknowledged the efforts of 72 MBA and 27 Sloan graduates who also received a Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation. This certificate is awarded to students who complete a course of study focused on using business and management skills to solve social and environmental issues.


Every year, a few distinguished students are recognized for their outstanding accomplishments. The academically highest 10% of the graduating MBA class are designated as Arjay Miller Scholars after Dean Emeritus Arjay Miller, who was on hand during the ceremony to recognize these 40 outstanding achievers. Among the students, one MBA student’s academic achievement places him or her at the top of the class, earning the designation as the Henry Ford II Scholar. Stewart Lynn earned this designation for 2013.

For 2013, the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award was presented to Stephanie Collett. Nominated and chosen by her peers, the recipient of this award is the second-year MBA student who — by their active participation, initiative, leadership, and personal integrity — is judged as having contributed most to the fulfillment of the goals of Stanford Graduate School of Business both within school and society.

Finally, Jackson Garton was awarded the Alexander A. Robichek Student Achievement Award in Finance, which is granted to the MBA student selected by the finance faculty for achievement in and contribution to finance courses.

As the ceremony concluded, Dean Saloner wished all the graduates one final farewell as they took their first step into futures of impact and meaning.

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