A Penultimate Lecture for the Class of 2020

For the Class of 2020, it is a familiar scene by now: the faces of classmates and professors, tiled across a computer screen, smiling at one another from home offices and kitchen tables around the world.

More than 235 of Babson’s graduating Graduate students came together last week for The Penultimate Lecture—a chance to hear words of wisdom from beloved professors. Much like Commencement, the official Last Lecture will take place in the future when it is safe to bring the class together for a celebration.

The talks, delivered by faculty selected by the graduating class, ranged from inspirational, to witty, to cerebral, with each professor offering a few words of advice for the students.

Associate Professor Jerome Taillard

Associate Professor Jerome Taillard is this year’s recipient of the Thomas Kennedy Award for Teaching Excellence, as voted by the students. “Our time together has been intense,” the Finance professor told the Class of 2020, “but that’s what makes the journey worth it.”

He encouraged the graduates: “As you set sail on new destinations and endeavors, please set your compass on excellence. Excellence can be reached. For me, it means reaching your full potential. To get there, always aim for the highest quality: in your work, in your friendships, in your partnerships. And, when you strive for excellence, you become a force to be reckoned with in business. You also become a true friend and an amazing partner. In my mind, excellence sets you apart. Ultimately, excellence will transcend you and it will become your legacy.”

Professor Anirudh Dhebar

After welcoming students in different time zones, Professor Anirudh Dhebar thanked the class for what they taught him and for the co-learning they shared while at Babson. He offered three parting pieces of wisdom:

  • Be careful how you define success. Be intentional and yet be open to the call to adventure. For heaven’s sake, do not refuse that call!
  • Never ever take a photograph standing up. Why? Everybody takes a photograph standing up. You have to change your perspective relative to others.
  • Everything you do, and the way you do everything sends a message. Make that message strong, exciting, distinctive, authentic, consistent, clear, and credible.

Senior Lecturer Jack McCarthy

Senior Lecturer Jack McCarthy a member of the Management division who taught several MSEL courses this semester, recognized the Class of 2020 for all they have overcome this year. “Our graduate school is an amazing place for learning and discovery, and then to have this particular year for this particular class, and to see your resilience, has been energizing and inspiring.”

He continued: “How do we cope with change? How do we live in that moment? This year has been a brilliant test. We think about the way we’ve managed in the past. We’ve shifted from asking How do we bring order to the world? to something broader: How do we create? How do we acknowledge? How do we empower? This is the difference between management and leadership, because while management produces predictability and order, leadership produces change.”

Class of 2020: We did it. Nothing can take away the fact that we did the work and we’re here. We are a class that cares deeply enough that we have given our all this year.

Lauren Hemingway MBA’20, Student Speaker

Professor Lidija Polutnik

“I was thrilled to be your teacher,” opened Economics Professor Lidija Polutnik. “For some, the last time I saw you was in Italy in January for our elective in Milan, just before COVID-19 happened.” Drawing on economic principles, she offered tips for transitioning to life after school in the midst of a pandemic.

“Economics teaches us to use data to make decisions. In reality, make the decision to be kind to yourself as you move through what life really looks like. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to get everything done on your to do list. For some of my students, the last few weeks have involved negotiating children, financial responsibilities, the job market. … It is difficult and you need to be kind to yourself when life is difficult.”

Professor Jay Rao

Professor Jay Rao, who teaches graduate innovation and operations courses, celebrated the graduates as entrepreneurial leaders. “If I can encapsulate you as a class, you are all entrepreneurial leaders who innovate your way into the future. You are going to be optimistic, intentional, opportunity-driven solution seekers. What a great time to be in this crisis, because crisis means a decision point. In Mandarin, the word “crisis” and the word “opportunity” are the same: weiji. As Babson graduates, you are all able to recognize and capture opportunities because you are entrepreneurial leaders.”

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