John Morgridge Addresses 2012 Graduates During Diploma Ceremony

Former Cisco CEO distills his eight decades of life experience into what he called his “Rules for the Long Road.”

June 17, 2012


“The choices you will make given your youth, your energy, your knowledge, and your experience will change your community, your country, and your world,” John Morgridge told a group of 473 degree candidates during the Stanford GSB diploma ceremony on Saturday, June 16, at Frost Amphitheater.

The philanthropist and former CEO of Cisco, who received his MBA from Stanford in 1957 but didn’t actually attend his own graduation because of the draft, distilled his eight decades of life experience into what he called his “Rules for the Long Road.” In a series of warm reminiscences, Morgridge explicated eight fundamental principles to help guide the 2012 graduates on their individual life journeys of change.

Among them, he advised students to invest in friendships, set annual mental and physical challenges, learn to give back, and live your values. In his final rule of the day, he advised students to listen, but “don’t always be looking for a new opportunity.” He elaborated that, “Opportunity is random and may come in many different forms.”

During Morgridge’s military service, for example, Eisenhower shifted U.S. defense policy from a tactical to a strategic approach. As a result, the Stanford MBA graduate became the officer in charge of the IBM Documentation Center, which in turn led to a long and fruitful career in the computing industry.

His comments resonated with Dean Garth Saloner’s own observations to the graduates, comments that honestly acknowledged the role that luck plays in our personal success and the obligations it creates.

“For each of us good fortune has played a role,” he said, “whether a helping hand along the way, a break on a college admissions decision, being born in the right place at the right time, or countless other reasons that others, with our same talent endowments, are less fortunately positioned. Surely, at least that portion of our success creates an obligation to give back, to share our largesse with others.”

Degrees Awarded


The afternoon ceremony honored 384 students who received MBA degrees, 19 PhDs, 67 who earned the Sloan Master of Science degree, and 3 Master of Arts in Business Research degrees. Of the students receiving MBA degrees, 22 also earned degrees in education, 5 earned degrees in law, 1 earned a Humanities and Sciences degree in public policy, and 18 were awarded earth sciences degrees from the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources.

Jesper Sørensen, the Robert A. and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Professor of Organizational Behavior, acknowledged the efforts of 76 MBA and 19 Sloan graduates who also received a Public Management Certificate. 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.

Students Share Perspectives

In a new feature of the diploma ceremony, a student representative from the PhD, MBA, and Sloan programs shared their experiences and hopes before the degrees were granted for their cohort. Each individual highlighted the themes of fostering change and giving back.

Sloan student speaker Alex Zakroff fittingly took the GSB art installation “Ways to Change” as inspiration for his remarks. This dynamic piece of artwork is comprised of 300 backlit panels that display different adverbs modifying the verb change. “I challenge you — as well as myself — to be very purposeful in choosing the words that will describe your change,” he said. “If you do, my bet is you will leave this world — and this place — better than you found it.”

Bora Keskin from the PhD program put it this way: “As PhD graduates of the GSB, we are determined to make the world a better place either by highlighting the inefficiencies we see in various industries, organizations, and markets; by building business theories to guide practitioners; or by educating the next generation of executives and entrepreneurs.”

And before the presentation of the MBA diplomas, Ashley Lewis shared her thoughts about change being very close to home. “We have been given opportunities and experiences that most people only ever dream of “¦ how do we demonstrate that we were worthy of these extraordinary opportunities?” she asked. “We start to change things now, even before we have the power to do the big, important, universe-altering things. How do we do that? We teach people to be good to each other.”


Every year, a few distinguished students are recognized with awards for outstanding accomplishments. For 2012, the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award was presented to Kevin Diestel. This award is given to a second-year MBA nominated and chosen by their peers as having contributed the most to the fulfillment of the goals of Stanford GSB, in their actions at the school and in society.

The academically highest 10% of the graduating MBA class is designated as Arjay Miller Scholars after Dean Emeritus Arjay Miller, who was on hand during the ceremony to recognize these 38 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. Christopher Bockman earned this designation for 2012, as well as being the recipient of the Alexander A. Robichek Student Achievement Award in Finance, which is granted to the MBA student selected by the Finance faculty for achievement in finance courses.

In a separate university ceremony, MBA student and co-president of the GSB Student Association Kathryn Jaxheimer was recognized for her service to the community with the James W. Lyons Award from Stanford University.

By the conclusion of the ceremony, it was clear that the students of the 2012 graduating class had chosen the ways in which they wished to change: ambitiously, gratefully, and caringly.

By Katie Pandes

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