Be voracious for opportunity. Seize the unremarkable. Strive for excellence. And lead with love.
Under a picturesque blue sky, the Babson College community celebrated the Class of 2023 with an array of motivational and inspirational speeches during the undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremonies Saturday on its Wellesley campus.
“You have received a world-class education, not only in the classroom but in life,” President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD, told undergraduates. “At Babson, we teach you how to be entrepreneurial leaders, to be problem solvers and innovators who know how to get things done, no matter what the circumstances. And, over the last four years, you’ve done just that. Ladies and gentlemen, you passed the test.”
Tim Ryan ’88, H’23, U.S. chair and senior partner at PwC, and Reshma Kewalramani H’23, CEO and president at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, delivered Commencement addresses to the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies, respectively. Ryan and Kewalramani also received Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees, which also were presented to: Martha DiMatteo Vorlicek ’81, H’23, senior advisor at HarbourVest Partners LLC; and Richard W. Sorenson MBA’68, H’23, P’97 ’00, G’27, former president of Carling Technologies Inc.
Divya Achanta ’23, the undergraduate student speaker, offered advice to stay hungry for opportunity. “I urge you to act on your hunger and sink your teeth into as many figs as possible,” she said. “Babson has planted the seed that this is possible all while generating social, economic, and environmental value in the process.”
Kkhush Aggarwal MSEL’23, the graduate student speaker, offered words of encouragement to his classmates. “It’s time to take this experience and go farther than we could have ever imagined so far,” he said. “We will make our mark, we will break barriers, we will strive for excellence. We will be the ones who create, innovate, and make a difference.”
As the undergraduate Commencement speaker, Ryan delivered a deeply personal and moving message about leading with love. He recounted his first day as an employee at PwC 35 years ago, when he stood out because of his Sears-bought suit and short-sleeve white polyester shirt. At lunch, one of the instructors pulled him aside and took him to Filene’s Basement, buying him two proper, long-sleeve cotton shirts.
“That instructor showed me love,” he said. “That instructor was a Babson alum.”
Ryan also recounted the earliest days of his tenure as U.S. chair and senior partner at PwC in 2016, when a series of racially motivated violence roiled the country and rocked his employees. Under his leadership, the firm shut down for a day for a company-wide discussion about race. “We shed more tears on July 21, 2016, than we had in our 160-year history cumulatively, and most importantly, we began to learn about each other.”
“My advice to you is the same advice I give to CEOs today. I know you have great plans—I did—but just remember the people you’re counting on to help you achieve those great plans,” he said. “Business is about people, and leading people is about love. And so my simple message for the Class of 2023 …”
He paused to hold up his Commencement cap adorned with a heart.
“… I want you to lead with love.”
WATCH: Complete undergraduate speech by Tim Ryan ’88, H’23
All 💚 for our Class of 2023. #Babson2023
Kewalramani, the graduate Commencement speaker, focused on the importance of the seemingly mundane moments that connect to create a full and successful life, referencing the Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire.
She shared three of those moments in her life. She spoke of the lessons she learned while working weekends in her father’s small garment and electronics business in New York. She spoke of gaining a new understanding and appreciation for being a doctor while working a family medicine rotation in rural Maine. And, she spoke of the random lunch that eventually led her to becoming the first female CEO of a large biotech company.
“The biggest moments in life aren’t always the best advertised ones like graduation. The big moments are often the ones that seem forgettable until you consider them with the fullness of time,” she said. “My wish for you is that you seize your powers of observation, curiosity, and learning, and train those powers on the seemingly unremarkable and unrelated body of life experiences, because it will drive your success.”
WATCH: Full graduate speech by Reshma Kewalramani H’23
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