National Geographic CEO John Fahey
Class of 2006 Says Goodbye and Goes Forth
At commencement, CEO of National Geographic speaks about applying management
skills in an increasingly complex world.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—National Geographic Society CEO John M. Fahey, MBA '75, admits he has a cool job. He travels to cool places. He has cool photos hanging in his office. At this year's commencement, Fahey issued the ultimate challenge to 1,100 graduating students from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
"How do we—and I really mean you—manage this conflict between the aspirations shared by all humans and our planet's ability to serve and sustain those dreams? It's a complex question—the ultimate business quest," he said.
In his speech, Fahey combined humor and wisdom to encourage graduates to see the world, not just through office windows.
"You don't always get a diploma. You don't always wear a robe. The degrees come from your life experiences. Since taking the job as head of the National Geographic, I've been fortunate enough to be surrounded by many people with advanced degrees—degrees about the world and all that's in it," he said.
Fahey is first and foremost a business man. He has put his Michigan MBA to good use and turned National Geographic into a "mini-media conglomerate" that includes books, magazines, cable TV, Web and filmmaking. However, the most rewarding part of his job is the people who inspire him and expand his horizons beyond office windows, he said.
Fahey told the story of Mike Fay, an explorer and conservationist who trekked 1,200 miles across equatorial Africa with a tribe of pygmies. This year-long journey through one of the last uninhabited regions of the world resulted in the preservation of national park land.
Fahey and the people he works with are concerned with the conflict between conservation and growth. In many developing countries, loggers and cattle ranchers
often view protected lands as a challenge to their livelihood. The pace of global warming is rapidly accelerating, with no decrease in energy consumption in sight.
He asked that graduates not only use their talents and "gift of an exquisite education," but also hold on to their idealism, make responsible decisions and think beyond the short-term.
Above all, Fahey stressed that "our mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. Our future is not on an unalterable course."
Four students also spoke at commencement. Devesh Senapti delivered remarks for the BBAs and Sue Heter, MBA '06, represented the graduate students. Senapti urged graduates to continue to build on the strong BBA network formed during their years at Ross. Heter said she came to Michigan because of the people and looked forward to joining the network of happy alumni, a group that includes Stephen M. Ross, who made the largest donation ever to a business school.
Recipients of the Frank S. Moran Leadership awards were Matthew Kolarik, BBA
'06 and Brock Williams, MBA '06. Kolarik defined true leadership as working together and developing other leaders at every level.
Williams said while at Ross he learned that "as a member, one can truly emerge as a leader." He called upon his fellow graduates to lead and serve in the workplace and the community.
Faculty members were presented with the 2006 Student Awards for Teaching Excellence. The recipients of these awards were:
- Hyun-Soo Ahn, BBA
- James DeSimpelare, Master of Accounting
- Jane Dutton, PhD
- Gautam Kaul, MBA
- M.P. Narayanan, Executive MBA
In his remarks, Dean Robert Dolan noted that "graduation is a great day but has a definite dose of sadness." The graduating students were a source of exuberance, he said, and he expected them to carry their passion for knowledge into the next phase of their lives.
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