Commencement Speakers to Graduates: “Disrupt Stereotypes,” and Be Ready to Serve
Dual ceremonies celebrate Classes of 2020 and 2022.
Students were all smiles at Stanford GSB’s ceremony. | Best Grad Photo Inc.
Echoing themes of resilience, readiness, and change, speakers at commencement exercises for Stanford GSB urged graduates to lean into the lessons provided by the pandemic and push through toward new challenges.
This year, for the first time, Stanford GSB held two commencement ceremonies on two different days, honoring graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2022. The pandemic had forced the cancellation of an in-person commencement for the Class of 2020, so those graduates were included in a separate ceremony for MBA and MSx graduates on June 11, and PhD graduates in a combined event with the Class of 2022 on June 12.
Orlando Bravo, a founder and managing partner of Thoma Bravo, a private equity investment firm in Puerto Rico, addressed MBA and MSx graduates from the Class of 2020. Theresia Gouw, a leading Silicon Valley investor and cofounder of Acrew Capital, spoke to the Class of 2022 and to PhD graduates from the Class of 2020.
Kicking off the day for the Class of 2020, Dean Jonathan Levin noted the unusual nature of the event. “Today’s ceremony is different. Rather than a transition, let’s conceive this as a moment of inflection. It’s an opportunity to look back on being a GSB student, and how that experience has shaped your trajectory, and also to look out toward the future,” he said.
Bravo, MBA ’97, related an anecdote that he said exemplified the culture of the GSB, and also offered a template for success. He had been admitted both to Stanford and “an East Coast school” but asked to defer his enrollment so he could take advantage of a job opportunity. The other school said no, Stanford said yes. “Stanford welcomed me with open arms and, even before I set foot on campus, was encouraging me to do what I wanted to do,” Bravo said. “Today, I want to inspire you to carry these three elements of the GSB culture with you — be real, relaxed, and ready.”
“Stay real and genuine as you go out and accomplish big goals. This will help you stay grounded as a great person that you are and will certainly make you a better leader,” he said.
“Be ready for when the world calls on you. Being the best will afford you a great journey, but by being the best of your generation, you have a big responsibility. You don’t have the choice to opt out.”
Levin returned to the theme of adversity in his opening remarks to the Class of 2022. “It’s easier to appreciate the ordinary, the usual, the plentiful, when we have experienced the alternative,” he said. “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.”
Graduates react to commencement activities. | Best Grad Photo Inc.
In her speech to the Class of 2022 and PhD graduates from 2020, Gouw, MBA ’94, urged graduates to embrace diversity, not only because it promotes inclusion and equity, but also because it’s good business. “If you’ve ever been ‘the only’ anything, you know it comes with challenges — but also opportunities. It can be challenging to feel like you’re on an island. But it’s also an opportunity to bring a different lived experience to the discussion — to make it richer and disrupt stereotypes,” Gouw said.
“Workplaces that foster inclusive teams with diversity in gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, and lived experiences retain employees at a higher rate and for longer. They’re also more innovative and financially successful.
“As you go into the world and create wealth for yourself and others, build diversity into your company from day one, and seek diverse investors. These two simple tips will create a richer you, yes, but more importantly, a richer world — where access to generational wealth is democratized and diversity and greater opportunity become the norm.”
The diploma ceremony for the Class of 2022 featured 598 graduates who earned degrees:
- 455 MBA
- 120 Master of Science (MSx)
- 22 PhD
- 1 Master of Arts in Business Research
Forty-one of those students earned joint degrees:
- 3 MS in Computer Science
- 19 MS in Environment and Resources
- 9 MS in Education
- 9 JD (Law)
- 1 MS in Public Policy
Certificates in Public Management and Social Innovation were awarded to 151 graduates.
Forty-five MBA graduates were named Arjay Miller Scholars, recognized as the top 10% academically in the class.
The Henry Ford II Scholar, selected for academic achievement, was earned by Evan Christian Mendez.
Drake Pooley was recognized as this year’s Ernest C. Arbuckle Award winner, chosen by his peers for having contributed most to the fulfillment of the goals of the school.
The Alexander A. Robichek Award in Finance went to Caroline Anne Sohr.
The recipient of the George G.C. Parker Prize for academic achievement in the MSx class was Christophe Achille Paul Michotte.
Six students were named Robert L. Joss Scholars, recognizing the academically highest 10% of the graduating MSx class.
Friends share a moment after the ceremony. | Best Grad Photo Inc.
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