When Shaun Githuku’s father succumbed to pancreatic cancer last July, it could have slowed or stopped Shaun’s promising career.
“He was the greatest father I could ever have had, and the strongest human being I’ve ever known,” Githuku, MBA ’15, told his classmates June 4 at MIT Sloan’s MBA convocation at the Boston Opera House. “I was knocked off my feet. I promised myself that would use the grief as a motivator, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t do it alone.”
Instead, the Nairobi, Kenya, native found support in his two families. His family from Kenya was on hand to cheer Githuku from balcony and orchestra seats alike. His MIT Sloan family — the 350 graduates of the MBA class of 2015 and the 47 graduates of the MIT Leaders for Global Operations program — propped him up too.
“When I came back to Sloan [after my father’s death], I expected not to be filled with the same drive that you all show,” he said. “I was wrong. I rejoined a family that was hell-bent on building the future. You challenged me to dig deeper. You all led by example, and really, I had no choice but to follow.”
“I ask today that as the Sloan family you show your future colleagues, friends, husbands, partners, and wives the same down-to-earth, high five as you pass me in the hallway, laugh-with-me optimism, every day that you have shown me since I arrived at Sloan,” he said.
B.B. King and your own West Side of Detroit
Avanath Capital Management founder, chairman, and CEO Daryl Carter, MArch ’81, SM ’81, also addressed graduates and was presented with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Leadership.
Carter’s own graduation week from MIT in 1981 included a chance airport meeting with the late blues musician B.B. King. Hearing the young Carter was about to earn two degrees from MIT, King invited Carter and his sister backstage at a concert and told Carter “Congratulations on your achievement. Education — once you got it, they can’t take it away from you!”
“So, here you sit, just as I did 34 years ago,” Carter said. “No one can take your MIT degree away from you. So the next big question is: ‘What are you going to do with it?’”
Like King, Carter’s parents moved away from a segregated Mississippi. They settled in the West Side of Detroit, a neighborhood tied to the bustling auto industry. While not “picture perfect,” Carter said, the neighborhood provided a stable community where working class families motivated Carter and his sister to earn a combined five college degrees.
“Unfortunately, today, that neighborhood is plagued by drugs, violence, and poverty,” Carter said. “In many respects, my journey has become a full circle. My company owns and manages apartments that serve low- and moderate-income residents in places like my old neighborhood.”
Carter shared lessons learned from his journey, including the importance of analysis, embracing failures and finding simple answers to complex problems, but also in integrating an MIT Sloan education with one’s personal history.
“Success,” he said, “will come from combining what you have learned at Sloan with your unique experience and culture. In other words, your own West Side of Detroit.”
Record class gift
Also at convocation, the MBA and Leaders for Global Operations class of 2015 presented Dean David Schmittlein with a class gift of $77,001, representing a record 94 percent participation rate from graduates.