Last Lecture: Professors Share Life Lessons

Students in an auditorium wave their arms to John Lennon's song "Imagine" during Babson's traditional last lecture

Babson College graduate students gathered in Joseph L. Winn Auditorium on Wednesday night to watch their favorite professors give their Last Lecture—a Babson tradition of inspiration and celebration.

“Being successful is deeply and fundamentally about looking for opportunities that are a little bit unexpected, and then going and doing it,” Assistant Professor of Finance Luke Stein said, urging students to find a sweet spot between opportunities that are over-the-top original and others that are safe but overdone.

The graduate Class of 2022 voted to award Stein, who began teaching at Babson in 2020, with the 2022 Thomas Kennedy Award for Teaching Excellence. The award celebrates teachers who personify “teaching excellence at the graduate level and whose personal standards of quality and caring extend beyond the classroom.”

Stein was quick to show his gratitude at the two-hour event.

“Thank you. I love you. You’re my favorite,” he told students completing the two-year Master of Business Administration program. He went on to tell students completing the Master of Science in Management and Entrepreneurial Leadership program that they were his favorite—part of a running gag in which Stein declared those in various graduate degree programs “my favorite.”

Lead with Kindness

The light-hearted event evoked laughter, tears, and even an impromptu sing-along to John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Graduate students rose to their feet and waved their arms in the air to the hopeful hit as they soaked in their professors’ life lessons.

“You are about to leave,” Professor of Marketing Anirudh Dhebar told the graduating students. “The question is what will you keep with you, and what will you throw away.”

Among the words of advice and well-wishing, professors such as Lauren Beitelspacher shook things up by asking students to play a well-known ice breaker game called “telephone.” The point, said the Marketing Division chair, is to keep business messaging brief.

“Boil it down. Think about what you want your customer to remember and how it’s going to be retold,” Beitelspacher said. Asking her students to “lead with kindness,” she ended her lecture on a sentimental note.

“I am so happy that I had every single moment with you, every single one of you, and I can’t wait to have more moments with you and see all that you do,” Beitelspacher said as her eyes welled up. “Remember: Wherever you are, be there.”

Professor Jay Rao, who teaches operations management, reminded students that they are coming from a place of incredible privilege.

“Anyone can make himself or other rich people richer. We are privileged, use that privilege. Aim to make poor people richer,” Rao said. He peppered his lecture with jokes at his own expense and detailed his success as largely a matter of showing up and taking opportunities when they appeared.

“Chance favors the prepared. But, being there and showing up will make you luckier than you can ever imagine,” Rao said.

Being Awesome

Kennedy Award winner Stein ended the evening on a uniquely awesome note.

Stein broke down his lecture into three sections—finance, teaching, and awesomeness. He pointed out that many rules in finance and investing carry over to lifelong success. Just like putting money toward retirement, the earlier students invest their time and energy into their careers, relationships, and health, the better off they will be as they get older.

Headshot of Luke Stein
Luke Stein, assistant professor of finance

“It’s really hard to catch up if you start late,” Stein said. He also emphasized diversifying investments in personal health, relationships, and career.

“That way if your job sucks, you still have people in your life who are going to help you see your value,” he said. Stein pointed out the increasing value of higher education, and he urged students to continue learning and teaching others to stay sharp throughout life.

And, how will awesomeness impact students’ lives?

He urged students to surround themselves with awesome people, and to understand that they don’t have to choose between being a money person—favoring wealth over morals—or someone who eschews money to focus on doing good deeds.

“The world needs the people who have money to want to do good, and the people who want to do good to have money,” he said. “It’s not just one or the other.”

Being awesome, Stein said in closing, is combining something amazing with something surprising. He pointed to Jeremy Fry, a Boston Celtics fan who went viral for his heart-felt lip-synching performance to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” while at a game.

“There is a moment when Jeremy stops being normal and starts being awesome,” said Stein, encouraging students to recognize opportunities like Fry. “Being awesome is about finding openings to do something that’s both good and unexpected. So, go out there and do it.”

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