Tory Edelman graduated today from Harvard Business School in the first-ever virtual ceremony. Tory joins just over 900 graduates entering the workforce in the teeth of a fierce recession. One-third of her classmates do not have a job, as they were aiming to work for start-ups which are now capital-starved.
Dean Nitin Nohria, in his final year at the school, gave the students a rousing sendoff. He said that General George Marshall had come to Harvard just over 70 years ago to introduce the Marshall Plan for European reconstruction in the wake of World War II. The HBS students of that era were part of the Greatest Generation who fought in the war, then went on to drive the American economy to global preeminence. Nohria urged the graduates to become the Next Greatest Generation.
“You are fortunate to have chosen business as your profession. There is no better way to do well and do good. You must lead in ways to make a positive contribution to society. You must make a difference. This is the time to rebuild trust in capitalism.”
Her accounting professor, Suraj Srinivasan, gave out the diplomas to Section H. He recounted times when students brought family to class, then had the confidence to take a lead role in the class discussion. The tradition after such an intervention is to have a standing ovation by the other students, as the proud parent or spouse beams. “Don’t allow life’s pressures get to you. HBS is as much what you learn about yourself as what you learn academically,” he said.
It has been a winding road for Tory. Always a winning personality and athlete, she recognized in the middle of her high school years that she could get top grades if she really pushed herself. She made her way to Bowdoin College and now graduates from Harvard Business School rejoining Edelman and her sisters Margot (HBS13) and Amanda.
As Tory was awarded her diploma, I had tears in my eyes. I remembered the English paper on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, the history paper on the Candy Bombers who dropped Hershey bars to starving kids in the Berlin Airlift, the hours driving to volleyball tournaments and the birthday celebrations giving sports jerseys with Edelman on the back plus the appropriate number to celebrate the year.
For all of you parents reading this blog post, take a bow. Your effort, commitment and setting of standards makes it all possible.
Richard Edelman is CEO.