Published: June 9, 2011
Dr. Victor Fung served as the distinguished speaker at the 2011 MIT Sloan MBA Convocation.
On June 2, 2011 members of the MBA class of 2011 gathered together in Kresge auditorium with their families and friends to mark the completion of their degrees at the third annual MBA Convocation. The event was a joyous one and provided a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the graduates’ many achievements at MIT Sloan and to reflect on the enormous opportunities that lay ahead for them throughout their careers and lives. The Convocation festivities included speeches by David C. Schmittlein, John C Head III Dean; JoAnne Yates, Deputy Dean; Student Speaker Nitin Bantwal Rao, MBA ’11; and Distinguished Alumni Speaker Victor K. Fung, Group Chairman of Li & Fung, MIT, SB, SM, Electrical Engineering, ’66, PhD ’71, Harvard, Business Economics.
Admired by students and faculty alike for his thoughtful leadership and his commitment to improving the world, Student Speaker Nitin Rao began his remarks by reflecting on some of the heroes who encouraged and inspired him along the way. Rao mentioned his father, who pushed him to follow the ideas and dreams he was passionate about, his mother, who was always there to invest in the 50-rupee travel fare to take him to math competitions, and MIT Sloan alumnus Ayan Sarkar, who encouraged him not only to apply to MIT Sloan, but to think beyond the business school application to problems he could hack at and solve. Then Rao encouraged his fellow graduates to consider the heroes in the audience who will continue to guide them through their lives and careers.
Rao also reflected on the incredible uniqueness of each and every one of his fellow graduates. Remembering the day he first arrived at 50 Memorial Drive, he said he was worried about fitting in. “I had just turned 23,” he said, “and didn’t represent the typical demographic, work experience, career choices, or even orientation! Clearly, there must be something wrong here,” he joked, “or maybe Admissions was kind.” He went on to say that he now looks back at that hesitation with laughter, because one of the things that is great about MIT Sloan is that there is no typical student. “You never need to fit in,” he said, “we’re each quirky, different, and have a story to tell…”
Moving on to describe a number of his peers’ achievements in a wide range of fields, Nitin then urged them all to continue to foster MIT’s spirit of change, diversity, and innovation as they move on to confront the many difficult challenges they will face in today’s world. “MIT Sloan, bridging mind and action, has empowered us with the tools and the ethic to help attack tomorrow’s problems. Our role, indeed our responsibility, is to bring the system-building hallmark of MIT in service.”
After a musical interlude by Clemens Benjamin Leistner, MBA ’11, Noam Josephy, MBA ’11, and Nadia Augustine Tan, MBA ’11, Dean David Schmittlein addressed the graduates. Dean Schmittlein reminded them that their analytical tools, their leadership skills, and the support of a global network of over 125,000 MIT and Sloan alums makes them uniquely positioned to address the many difficult challenges they have inherited throughout the world.
Dean Schmittlein also thanked the MIT Sloan staff for their hard work and support before introducing the Distinguished Alumni Speaker Dr. Victor Fung, who outlined what he saw as the five duties of future leaders in today’s rapidly changing global economy. First and foremost, Dr. Fung said, “is to be articulate, active, and passionate agents of an open world.” Warning students of the dangers of isolationism and protectionism, he encouraged them to foster openness and allow the positive forces of 21st century globalization to increase and intensify. Secondly, he said that in order to adapt to and influence events in the 21st century world, leaders must first fully understand that world. This, he said, requires that we all look toward China, the most dominant rising global economic power. “Your future depends to a very great degree on the extent to which the U.S. and China can cooperate in crafting a robust, open, sustainable, and equitable global economy,” Fung said. Fung’s third duty of all future leaders is, “to contribute to making the relationship a positive and constructive one.” The fourth duty is for graduates to have a “broad global outlook.” And finally, the fifth duty is to have a strong and reliable ethical compass. “The global open economy and society will develop and be preserved ultimately on the basis of strong ethical foundations and behavior. There is no sustainable economy without sustainable morality.”
Fung then congratulated the graduates on their achievements and accepted the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Leadership from Dean Schmittlein, who said he was delighted to recognize Fung’s commitment to MIT, his impact on the economies of Asia, and his advancement of management principles and practice.
Following a short visual history of the graduates’ two years at MIT Sloan, Deputy Dean JoAnne Yates introduced the newly elected Alumni Class Officers, Rachel Carter, MBA ‘11, James Harland, MBA ’11, and Tara Thomas, MBA ’11, who presented their class gift of $116,336.00 to the Dean. Recognizing the hard work of the Class Gift Committee, Rachel said the gift was an expression of their appreciation for the School and the amazing community they have built together, adding, “it is an example of the culture of giving back that we hope will continue, in its various forms, in the years to come as alumni.”
Alumni Alberto Cavallo, MBA ’05, and Elizabeth Laipson, MBA ’98, then welcomed James, Tara, and Rachel into the MIT Sloan alumni community by presenting each with a paperweight-sized replica of the brass rat. The ceremony ended with Dean Schmittlein reminding students that they would always be part of the MIT Sloan community. He wished them luck and expressed the great pride he felt toward them and their achievements. But before leaving, he asked them each to stand, turn around, and thank their families and friends in the audience.