Some of the brightest minds in business — and business school — shared these words of wisdom, and they’re not just for new grads.

When you’re a few steps away from collecting your diploma and starting the next chapter of your life, the words of wisdom shared at your graduation can get lost in the excitement. Often you need that inspiration long after you’ve walked across that stage.

So if you missed the advice at your own graduation or you need a few words of optimism to dig a little deeper, feel free to take some inspiration from Wharton’s graduation speakers this year.


“In my hut in Afghanistan, there was a quote etched on a wall – ‘Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.’ It’s a truth I think about often. We’re not at our best sipping mimosas on a beach. We’re at our best when we’re fighting for our lives. We’re at our finest in the passionate pursuit of a cause that is righteous and just and bigger than we are.”

MBA Student Graduation Speaker Stu Barnes-Israel

Stu Barnes-Israel, WG’18, Wharton MBA Student Graduation Speaker

“Think about things as differently as possible. Understand that because you are going against conventional wisdom, you should expect to be criticized by those with a vested interest in the conventional wisdom. You should just take it as noise — don’t let it change your mind. You are going to be called an idiot moments before you’re called a genius.”

Wharton EMBA San Francisco Speaker Safra Catz

— Oracle CEO Safra Catz, W’83, L’86, MBA Program for Executives San Francisco Graduation Speaker

“If you think about it, 75 percent of the S&P 500 were founded during a period of economic uncertainty or recession, and when you think about that, that’s when the great things happen. The ability to pivot during those periods of time is incredibly important.”

Wharton EMBA Graduation Speaker Bill McNabb

— Vanguard Chairman F. William McNabb III, WG’83, MBA Program for Executives Philadelphia Graduation Speaker

“The single greatest takeaway from this school is that people define our experience; and any person from any place has something to teach us.”

2018 Wharton Undergraduate Speaker Kenneth Ye

Kenneth Ye, W’18, Wharton Undergraduate Student Speaker

“We live in an environment that more than ever is trying to divide people whether based on differences in belief, ethnicity, geography, or politics. As leaders, we are positioned to not only change this narrative, but bridge the divide.”

EMBA San Francisco Student Graduation Speaker Vidya Krishna Murthy

Vidya Krishna Murthy, WG’18, Wharton San Francisco MBA Program for Executives Graduation Speaker and Cybersecurity Risk Manager at Becton Dickinson

“I can tell you with absolute conviction that managing compassionately is not just a better way to build a team, it’s a better way to build a company… It’s not just about what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s about how you’re trying to accomplish it.”

2018 Wharton Undergraduate Speaker Jeff Weiner

— LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, W’92, Wharton Undergraduate Graduation Speaker

“If you want to fly high, in business or in life, you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground, and stay rooted to see what matters most. … The Chobani journey has taught me something special: what matters most, in business and in life, is the difference you make for other people, for your community, for your country, and for humanity.”

2018 Wharton MBA Speaker Hamdi Ulukaya

— Chobani Founder, Chairman, and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, Wharton MBA Graduation Speaker

“There’s more than one way to improve society. You don’t have to work for a nonprofit or a benefits corporation, just create something new. Add value in whatever you do.”

Wharton EMBA Graduation Speaker Gregg John

Greg John, WG’18, Wharton Philadelphia MBA Program for Executives Graduation Speaker and Business Manager for National Expansion at Capital One Financial

“Perhaps there is no road as Doc Brown says in Back to the Future. Perhaps you’re the pioneer. That, of course, is the fascination with research… It’s likely that it works out but not necessarily exactly as planned but that’s the thrill of blazing the path.”

Wharton Deputy Dean Michael Gibbons

— Wharton Deputy Dean Michael Gibbons, Wharton Doctoral Programs Graduation Speaker

— Colleen Donnelly

Posted: May 16, 2018

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