More than 1,100 honored at Ross School Spring Commencement
Jerry White, executive director of Landmine Survivors Network, challenges fellow graduates to use their managerial skills to heal a hurting planet.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—April 12, 1984, was a gorgeous, sunny day in northern Israel when Jerry White, 20 years old and a junior at Brown University, and two friends were returning to Jerusalem from a backpacking trip and the ground exploded under White's feet.
"I thought it was a terrorist attack. It was then that I learned what landmines do. They were invented to rip off body parts—not to kill, but to maim. My right foot was blown off. I kept shouting: 'I have no foot! I have no foot!' "
Bone fragments from his right foot had become projectiles peppering his lower body. His left leg also was blown open; bones jutted out of his calf. "I was bleeding to death," White told fellow Ross School graduates during his April 29 commencement address in Crisler Arena.
White, executive director of Landmine Survivors Network (LSN), was among more than 1,100 graduates to receive degrees in the ceremony that also recognized a distinguished alumnus, teaching award winners and student leaders.
White, who thanked his Executive MBA classmates for making him a better manager, described the horrific man-made epidemic that has become his obsession: 80 million landmines buried in more than 80 countries. Eighty percent of landmine victims are civilians, including thousands of women and children. Every 22 minutes someone steps on a landmine.
White survived, thanks to his two courageous friends who carried him out of the unmarked minefield that had been laid during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. After spending six months in Israeli hospitals recuperating, White returned to and graduated from college. He worked for 10 years as a nonproliferation analyst, tracking the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons for the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control before he and landmine survivor Ken Rutherford founded the LSN. The LSN is a leader in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
"I didn't set out to help landmine victims," White said. His passion to change the world was sparked by a Cambodian girl, also an amputee. When she noticed him adjusting his prosthesis and said in Khmer "You are one of us," White said he realized he could no longer distance himself from the suffering of amputees in Cambodia and other countries around the world.
"Today, April 29, is the anniversary of the day in 1970 that President Nixon ordered an invasion of Cambodia," said White. Cambodians still live with the aftereffects. "All of us are connected to that Cambodian girl in Phnom Penh." White called on his fellow graduates to use their managerial skills to help heal a hurting planet.
As part of the ceremony, former Ambassador Ronald N. Weiser, BBA '66, was presented the David D. Alger Alumni Achievement Award. Established in 1989, the award recognizes alumni whose professional successes have brought distinction to themselves, credit to the school and benefit to fellow citizens. The award was renamed in honor of David Alger, MBA '68, president and CEO of Fred Alger Inc., who was killed on Sept.11, 2001. Weiser founded McKinley Associates Inc., a national real estate investment company, and served as its chairman and CEO until he was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic in 2001.
Five faculty were recognized by students for teaching excellence:
Gautam Ahuja, PhD '96, the Michael R. and Mary Kay Hallman Fellow, professor of corporate strategy and business, and chair of the Corporate Strategy and International Business area (MBA award)
James M. DeSimpelare, lecturer of accounting (MAcc award)
Sendil K. Ethiraj, the Michael R. and Mary Kay Hallman Fellow and assistant professor of corporate strategy and international business (PhD award)
Victoria Johnson, Fellow of Society of Scholars and visiting assistant professor of management and organizations (BBA award)
Thomas C. Kinnear, PhD '72, the Eugene Applebaum Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, professor of marketing and director of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies (Executive MBA award)
Class of 2005 Student Award recipients were:
David Bruhowzki (Global Citizenship MBA/MAcc)
Sarah Kuhn (Global Citizenship BBA)
Adam D. Nielsen (Leadership MBA/MAcc)
Kallie N. Steffes (Leadership BBA)
Jennifer Weisberger (Innovation in Education)
For more information, contact:
Mary Jo Frank