Who Landed The Best Graduation Speakers?


happy graduates

Think Latin is a dead language? Not in May!

That’s right: It’s graduation time, where every fancy academic term seemingly ends in a vowel (or an s). Listening to the dean, you’d almost think he was improvising an epic rap battle between Plato and St. Thomas Aquinas. Save it for the law school, buster.

Graduation has a language of its own too, with constant references to harvests, trees, and coming together. And the dress code is even stranger. All semester, your professors have sauntered into class wearing jeans. Now, they’re suddenly draped in gowns and hoods. Has Rosemary delivered her baby? What gives?

If the regalia wasn’t enough, you have the beloved tradition of a keynote speaker. You know who I’m talking about: The CEO who writes his speech on an airplane, stitching together generic lines from some self-help book he bought at Hudson Booksellers. You can almost anticipate the lines: “Follow your heart” (A mistake that’s inspired so many country songs); “Be a force for change and good” (Invoking images of Luke Skywalker battling dear ol’ dad on the Deathstar); and “This is just the start of your education” (The real education begins when the tuition bill arrives…caveat emptor).


Yes, graduations can seem corny or pretentious, but they are also rather spiritual moments too. They are a time for reflection and celebration, an end of one life and the beginning of another. And it’s no different in business school. Sure, you’ve walked the stage before. But the powers-that-be pretty much have to pass you in high school. In college, you’re almost terrified to take your diploma. ‘What do I do now?’, you wonder. With an MBA, you already know who you are what you want to do. You may even have a job lined up starting Monday! And now, you know that your life has truly started. You’ve finally made. And there’s no going back, just forward.

So when are this year’s graduations being held at the top business schools? And who will be speaking? Who’s landed the best commencement speakers? Nike founder and Stanford benefactor Phil Knight will be addressing the graduating MBAs at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. At East Coast rival Harvard Business School, Kahn Academy founder Salman Khan will take the stage for the big speech at Class Day. Predictably, at Wharton and Columbia Business School, big names in finance will do the honors: Carlyle Group Co-Founder and Co-CEO David Rubenstein at Wharton and Evercore Partners Founder Roger Altman at Columbia.

For Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff Fettig, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business’ graduation was a personal event. His son, Jay, was a graduating MBA in the audience to see his dad take the podium to deliver this year’s commencement address. “Leadership is a privilege, not a right,” he told the graduates on May 9th. “Leadership is not given. It has to be earned every single day.”

Check out our full list below:

Kelley   Indiana Kelley School of Business

   Date: May 9

Speaker: Jeff Fettig, Kelley alumnus and CEO of Whirlpool, whose son, Jay, received his MBA this year

Website: Graduation Ceremony



Duke (Fuqua)

Date: May 10

Speaker: Grant Hill, Former NBA Player and Duke Alum

Website: Graduation Resource



Dartmouth (Tuck)

Date: June 7

Speaker: Sherri C. Oberg, President and CEO of Edu21C.com

Website:Tuck Investiture Ceremony




Yale School of Management

Date: May 19

Speaker: No Commencement Speaker

Website: Yale Commencement



New York University (Stern)

Date: May 22

Speaker: Ajay Banga, President and Chief Executive Officer, MasterCard

Website: NYU Convocation



California-Berkeley (Haas)

Date: May 23

Speaker: Cathie Lesjak, CFO of Hewlett-Packard

Website: Berkeley Commencement



UCLA (Anderson)

Date: June 13

Speaker: Susan Wojcicki, Chief Executive Officer of YouTube (Former Head of Advertising and Commerce at Google)

Website: Anderson Commencement


Tepper 3

Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Date: May 17

Speaker: William S. Demchak, President and Chief Executive Officer, The PNC Financial Services Group,

Website: Tepper Commencement


USC Marshall

USC (Marshall)

Date: May 16

Speaker: Steven A. Ballmer, retired CEO of Microsoft Corporation

Website: Marshall Commencement


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