MBA Convocation 2009: Solid foundation, promising beginning

Judy Lewent, SM ’72, addresses graduating class of 2009

Judy LewentJudy Lewent, SM ’72 and retired CFO of Merck, returned to campus to urge students to pursue fulfilling careers.
View a photo slide show of Convocation 2009 >>

On June 4, 2009 members of the MBA and LGO classes of 2009 and their families gathered to celebrate the completion of their respective degrees at the inaugural MBA Convocation. The festivities included speeches by Shimrit Ben-Yair, MBA '09, and distinguished alumna, Judy Lewent, SM ’72.

Shimrit Ben-Yair began her speech by thanking the audience of students, faculty, family, and friends. She discussed her time at MIT Sloan and what she believes she is taking away with her degree. “I believe we mastered the art of making a positive impact,” says Ben-Yair, “Not only for our businesses, but also the communities we live in.” She went on to discuss the positive impact student start-ups are already having on the world, including the healthcare business of Ting Shih, LFM ’09, which “helps doctors diagnose patients in Africa using cell phones.”

What's your passion?

Ben-Yair's understanding of the core values of MIT Sloan were echoed by Judy Lewent, retired vice president and CFO Merck & Co., Inc. Lewent spoke about her relationship with MIT Sloan and how it helped her to be a better leader. She cited the current recession, telling graduates, “As difficult as this environment is, it may provide an opportunity. Indeed, it could even prove to be a blessing.” She told the students that they would have a series of questions to ask themselves and one in particular was important “What's my passion?”

The answer to that question, says Lewent, is critically important to the kinds of principled leaders who are graduates of MIT Sloan. Her particular passion took the form of the research pharmaceutical industry. “I knew I could believe in an industry that was committed to the discovery and development of unique medicines and vaccines — drugs that would make a real difference to people's health and even save lives,” Lewent says, “It seemed to me to be work worth doing, and, I thought it was a place where I could make a difference.”

Laying the foundation

Finding work worth doing was one part of Lewent's suggestion, but she credits her education at MIT Sloan for making that option possible. “Of course, what enabled me to make a difference was my education at MIT Sloan. My two years here laid the groundwork on which my career was built. They also exposed me to people and approaches to problem solving that I have valued ever since,” says Lewent.

At the close of Lewent's speech, Dean David Schmittlein presented her with the inaugural Dean's Award for Excellence in Leadership, capping a day of celebration, sound advice, acknowledgement of achievement, and new beginnings.