Not all that long ago, more than 500 students jumped over one of the highest admission hurdles in the world to gain entrance into Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. This past weekend they bid farewell to GSB with degrees in hand. Keynote speaker Penny Pritzker — a GSB graduate and billionaire whose family made its fortune mainly from the Hyatt hotel chain — had a humbling message for the graduates, which included 392 full-time MBAs.
“Remember, no matter how high you soar, you’re never too important to check the toilet paper in the restroom,” she announced to a gymnasium filled with thousands grads, friends, and family. Pritzker, who most recently served as Barack Obama’s secretary of commerce, grew up changing the toilet paper and cleaning the women’s bathrooms for her father, Donald, at the some of the first Hyatt hotels not far from the Stanford campus.
“Replacing the toilet paper was not glamorous,” Pritzker said early in her address to the Class of 2017. “But I learned early on that when you run a business, no matter how large your enterprise, no task is ever too small for you. And that your example as a leader sends a powerful message across your entire organization.”
Pritzker gave an inspiring speech detailing the tragedy of losing her father to a heart attack when he was 39 and she was 13, losing her mother in a car accident about 10 years later, taking care of her two younger brothers, and eventually creating her own company.
Below is a photo essay with key quotes from Pritzker and Jonathan Levin, who attended his first graduation as dean of the GSB.
“We’ve raised our kids together. We’ve traveled the world together. We’ve done deals together. They are the friends I can call anytime, any day and they will be there. The friendships you made here will be for a lifetime.” — Penny Pritzker on her classmates and fellow graduates from the GSB full-time MBA Class of 1985. Pritzker also earned her JD from Stanford.
“You, the Class of 2017, are the first GSB class I’ve had the privilege of sending out into the world. I am so proud of what you’ve accomplished here and what I know you will accomplish in your careers and lives.” — Dean Jonathan Levin
“Each of you has a pioneering spirit. You chose to come to Stanford. The school of the American frontier. The rocket ship of higher education,” Levin said.
“You are leaving with friendships and community that will be with you always.”