Back From Harvard

On April 17, the OPM37 class of over 150 graduated. It was a gorgeous spring day in Boston and we were thrilled to have our friends and family in attendance.  One of the highlights of the ceremonies was our key-note speaker, Robert Kaplan, interim CEO of the Harvard Management Company and our class Leadership professor for the first two years.  Naturally, he was unable to teach OPM37 this spring, as the call of Harvard’s $42 billion endowment was a little more pressing a  priority than our business education!

Rob is an incredibly impressive individual.  Our first year at OPM was his first year teaching this particular program.  We could tell he was a bit nervous, but it didn’t take him long to prove he was a natural teacher.  He listened, he engaged, he challenged and he laughed.  Not to mention that his career has been a series of fantastic accomplishments that most of us can only dream of, so this adds an infinite degree of credibility to his teaching.

Rob began his address by telling us a little about what he does to manage the $42 billion Harvard endowment.  I worried I would soon tire of this topic, but Rob made it fascinating. He did note that currencies were an area that left him often confused–validating the frustration many in our industry face!  He moved on to the financial crisis currently facing our country, and assured us it would be solved. But, he warned, this was only a temporary solution.  The underlying, root problem in the United States lay in our leaders ignoring critical facts: that the middle class has been losing economic ground steadily for years and that there are 50 million uninsured citizens.  Someone in the audience asked whether Rob was intimating that this year’s election needed to go in a certain direction. “Yes, this election matters. It matters a lot.”  Rob avoided endorsing a particular political candidate, but it was clear on which side of the fence he stood.

He ended his address with a compelling and inspirational statement: “Most of you have not done what you will some day be known and celebrated for.”  He wanted us each to consider what contributions we can make to our world, our communities and our field.

So I left Harvard shortly after the ceremony and headed to New Orleans to participate in the clean-up of Louis Armstrong Park with several ATA team mates.  (See the youtube video on our main blog page.) Not a great contribution–but a start?

Kate Simpson

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