The Best Business School Commencement Speakers Of 2011

Commencement (a.k.a convocation, graduation, final exercises, investiture [huh?]) season is upon us.

Congrats to all the second years who’ve made it through and are ready to go forth into the real world. We salute you.

And so do a lot of famous business people. We took a look at the top school’s commencement speakers this year, and compared. (An idea from our friends at Her Campus.com…thanks guys!)

Who do you think wins in the business school commencement speaker smack down? 

1. Columbia

Commencement: May 18

Speaker: Henry Kravis, CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), and Columbia Business School ’69.

Henry Kravis

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If you didn’t know what KKR stood for before today, you’re not alone. But as a co-founder of PE shop, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Kravis is worth an estimated $3.9 billion and is #281 on Forbes list of richest people on the planet. Not too shabby.

2. UVA — Darden

Commencement: May 22

Speaker: Robert F. McDonnell, Governor of Virginia

Robert mcdonnell

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Speaking at the university-wide commencement, Republican Senator McDonnell (who prefers “Bob”), spent some time as a Fortune 500 health care company, American Hospital Supply Corporation. Other notable attributes: he has a lot of children, and enforces the law, literally.

3. Duke — Fuqua

Commencement: May 15

Speaker: John Chambers, Chairman and CEO, Cisco

John Chambers

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Another university-wide commencement speaker, Chambers graduated with an engineering degree from Duke, but an MBA from Indiana University. (Is this even allowed?) A Time magazine Most Influential Person, and a CNN Most Powerful Person, he also appears to be very rich, with a reported net worth of $1 billion in 2009.

4. Harvard Business School

Commencement: May 26

Speaker: Kathy Giusti, Founder and CEO of The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, HBS Grad ’85

Kathy Giusti

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Kathy Giusti graduated from HBS and started her MBA career in pharmaceuticals at Merck, and then worked at Gillette, and G.D. Searle. But it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma that she founded the Research Foundation, which has raised over $100 million to date. Put that management education to work, girl.

5. Cornell — Johnson

Commencement: May 28

Speaker: Rudy Giuliani, Former mayor of New York City and Republican presidential candidate

Rudy Guiliani

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Another b-school that’s being shady about their MBA-specific speaker, we still hear that students have elected Rudy Giuliani to come speak at their commencement ceremony at Schoellkopf Stadium. Mayor Rudy obviously has a special place in the heart of New Yorkers – and that appears to run state-wide. Giuliani appears to run a consulting firm with a capital management arm – and has always been pretty entertaining.

6. Kellogg

Commencement: June 17

Speaker: Doug Conant, President and CEO, Campbell Soup Company; Kellogg ’76

Rudy Guiliani

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A true Wildcat, Conant attended Northwestern for undergrad and his MBA. He has started and ended his career in CPG: with a tenure at Campbell soup that has lasted 10 years, he announced his retirement effective July 2011. Speaking at the university graduation? Another Wildcat: Steve Colbert of The Colbert Report.

7. UNC — Kenan Flagler

Commencement: May 8

Speaker: Bob McDonald, Chairman, President and CEO, The Procter & Gamble Co.

Bob mcdonald

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CNN once reported that McDonald wrote his Congressman when he was 11 years old to get a letter of recommendation for West Point. This is a guy who knows what he wants. Appointed internally as President and CEO of P&G in 2009, his annual compensation was reported at around $13MM last year – also not too shabby.

8. Michigan — Ross

Commencement: April 29

Speaker: Darys Estrella Mordan, CEO, Bolsa de Valores de la Republica Dominicana / Stock Exchange of the Dominican Republic; and Al Leandre, CEO Vyalex Management Solutions Inc, both Ross ’02

Mordan

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This graduation is already posted on the InterWebs, with joint speakers and classmates Darys (pronounced Dah-REE-iss) Mordan and Al Leandre, , both Ross ’02, speaking to the Class of 2011. According to Dean Dolan, Al conducted a survey in 2002 about the attributes that someone needed to have to be an appropriate speaker for the Ross gradation. He came up with Kofi Annan. Nine years later, he was selected. Awesome.

9. MIT Sloan

Commencement: June 3

Speaker: Victor Fung, Group Chairman of Li & Fung Group

Victor Fung

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While the CEO of Xerox is speaking at the university-wide commencement, Sloan’s lined up Victor Fung, who received his B.S. and M.S. at MIT, obtaining a Ph.D. at HBS. (Enough acronyms for you, there?) Dr. Fung is a heavy-hitter in Hong Kong, serving as everything from a political consultant to a high-ranking executive at Li & Fung, a family business that trades globally in “time-sensitive consumer goods.”

10. NYU Stern

Commencement: May 19

Speaker: Janet L. Robinson, President and CEO, New York Times Company

Janet Robinson

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One of the few lady speakers at top MBA program commencements this year, Janet is a tenured publishing executive with an E.MBA from Tuck. We’d like to take this opportunity to ask if the New York Times paywall is paying off. We are students of business, after all.

11. University of Pennsylvania — Wharton

Date of ceremony: May 15

Speaker: Vikram Pandit, CEO Citigroup

Vikram Pandit

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There was some controversy about Vikram Pandit giving the keynote as a Columbia graduate school ceremony last year in light of economic events and Wall Street’s role in it, but no such fuss was made at Wharton this year where Pandit spoke over the weekend to its MBA grads.

We can’t resist, but the University of Pennsylvania school-wide speaker was Denzel Washington. Nice lineup, Penn. You go.

12. Stanford — GSB

Date of ceremony: June 11

Speaker: Herb Allison, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability and Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury

Herb allison

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In a strong lineup of political entities as commencement speakers this year, Stanford has Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico, speaking to the university, and Herb Allison, super-smart-guy-who-made-the-economy-stable, speaking to GSB grads.

13. DartmouthTuck

Date of ceremony: June 11

Speaker: Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, Dartmouth ’78

Jeffrey Immelt

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Darden will be entertained this June – Jeff Immelt (Tuck commencement) and Conan O’Brien (Dartmouth commencement) are nothing to laugh about.

14. UCLA — Anderson

Date of ceremony: June 10

Speaker: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

sheryl sandberg

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Sheryl Sandberg is bad-arse. She is COO of FaceBook, but she’s also been a high-ranking exec at the Google, as well as Chief of Staff for the US Department of Treasury. Plus she’s an awesome speaker, evidenced by her invitation to Anderson’s commencement, as well as Barnard College’s in New York.

 

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