HBS Event to Celebrate 100 Years

From the CEO of JP Morgan to Microsoft founder Bill Gates to the finance minister of India, Harvard Business School will be welcoming over 1,600 alums and distinguished guests to celebrate its centennial this Sunday.

The HBS Global Business Summit, which will take place over three days, is the “capstone event” of the yearlong celebration of the school’s founding in 1908, according to senior associate dean John A. Quelch.

Alums will have the opportunity to choose from over 50 panels on topics ranging from social enterprise to agribusiness, attend keynote addresses by Gates and journalist Charlie Rose, and network at social events in the greater Boston area.

Though the Business School held a celebration for current students on April 8 to commemorate the day when Harvard officially voted to establish the Business School, this weekend’s summit is in honor of the beginning of the school’s first academic year.

For the alumni event, Quelch noted that the main objective will be to engage faculty with alumni on issues including leadership, globalization, and the financial markets.

“We want to bring them back to campus for an experience that will hopefully reignite and re-cement their enthusiasm for the school through this common learning approach, which is reflective of the approach they enjoyed when they were students here,” he said.

The three-day event, which costs $1,500 per person, currently has a waitlist of over 250 individuals, according to Stephanie Goff, director of alumni relations at the Business School.

She said that the Business School began advertising to the alumni 18 months ago. And despite the market turmoil, Goff said that she wasn’t worried about a dropoff in attendance.

“We’ve seen the normal level of dropoff that see for an event of this size, but nothing more than that,” Goff said. “We will have folks like Niall Ferguson and Larry Summers who are in a unique position to speak about the crisis.”

Business School professor F. Warren McFarlan ’59, who is in charge of organizing the summit, noted the parallel between the current financial situation and that of when the Business School was founded, six months after the Panic of 1907.

“[The aftermath of the Panic] was the beginning of the modern financial regulatory era,” McFarlan said. “It’s ironic that 100 years later, we’re standing at the precipice of another turning point in the American economy and the global economy as a whole.”

While the summit celebrates the Business School’s past, it is also an opportunity to look towards the future.

“The real challenge for us is that we’re trying to set down a research agenda that will look good 50 years from now,” McFarlan said. “We wanted to tease out the major themes and then recruit the best speakers from around the world to address them,” McFarlan said.

“We want future generations to feel that we basically had our fingers on the major societal trends and aspects of doing business,” McFarlane added. “We want them to look fifty years from now and say that we were focused on the right agenda.”

—Staff writer Prateek Kumar can be reached at kumar@fas.harvard.edu.