There probably won’t be a single member of Harvard Business School’s Class of 2016 who won’t have tears in their eyes and a lump in their throat during the school’s annual Class Day celebration this year.
That’s because the chosen student speaker at the May 25th event is the wife of a fellow classmate who passed away last September after a heroic battle with cancer. HBS today (April 20) announced that Marcelle de Souza Goncalves Meira was selected by her peers to deliver the graduating MBA speech on the day before the official commencement ceremonies.
She and her late husband, Pedro Meira, both Brazilians, entered Harvard’s MBA program two years ago. Both of them left consulting jobs in Rio De Janiero on their journey to Harvard Business School, she coming from Boston Consulting Group and he from McKinsey & Co. Her husband, a member of Section D who quickly gained affection for both his warm and witty personality, had been diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer during his first year in Harvard’s MBA program last April. Meira’s friends, classmates, and professors rallied to support him and his family throughout the final weeks of his life, with the line of visitors waiting to see him at times lasting for hours. He died on Sept. 21st at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston at the age of 28.
A SPEECH ON THE IMPORTANCE OF FULLY APPRECIATING LIFE
“Pedro was an extraordinary student and a remarkable human being who cared deeply about others and wanted to make a difference in the world,” said HBS Dean Nitin Nohria in a statement. “He had a special ability to notice others and be sensitive to them–from the students in Brazil whom he helped with their studies to his classmates and many other friends on campus, it often seemed that he was taking care of us, even in his final days.”
A school spokesperson says Marcelle plans to devote her speech to sharing what she learned from her own experience at HBS, particularly the importance of fully appreciating life. Marcelle was chosen to speak through an audition process that included more than 50 student speeches.
Class Day speeches at Harvard are among the most emotionally stirring delivered by any graduating student in or around commencement exercises every year. Last year’s address was given by a self-styled “bohemian idealist,” graduating MBA Adeola Ogunwole, who is black, a Southerner, and a lesbian (see The Black Lesbian Who Wowed HBS). Two years ago, Harvard MBA Casey Gerald spoke movingly about a near-death experience with armed gunmen in his hometown of Dallas, and how that changed his life forever (The Most Stirring Speech Ever By An MBA).
Given the highly emotional backdrop to Marcelle’s speech, you can expect that this year’s address will be something of a tearjerker as Marcelle graduates without her husband at her side.
‘A DREAM YOU DREAM ALONE IS ONLY A DREAM’
A native of Recife, Brazil, and an engineer by training, Pedro told colleagues that he had entered HBS to gain the business and leadership skills that would enable him to return to his country and have an impact on the development of its economy and civil society. “Hard work and dedication,” he once wrote, “are always compensated not only with knowledge but with great opportunities.”
While an undergraduate student in electronic engineering at the Aeronautics Institute of Technology Sao Jose Dos Campos, he began volunteering as a physics teacher for a nonprofit that helped disadvantaged Brazilian youngsters prepare for college admissions tests. The organization’s guiding principal (based on words written by John Lennon)–“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality.”–became something of a guidepost for Meira’s own life. He joined McKinsey as an analyst after graduating in 2011.
Marcelle also graduated from the Aeronautics Institute of Technology with a degree in aeronautical and mechanical engineering. Before coming to HBS, she worked as a senior associate for the Boston Consulting Group’s office in Rio De Janiero.
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