Khan Academy Founder Speaks of Leadership, Legacy at HBS Class Day

Addressing this year’s 900 MBA recipients, their families, and friends, online-education tycoon Salman Khan spoke of graduates’ leadership potential at the Business School’s Class Day ceremonies on Wednesday.

Khan, who graduated from the Business School in 2003, founded the online-learning platform Khan Academy after tutoring his 12-year-old cousin over the telephone in 2004. He has since produced nearly 5,000 videos, largely focused on topics in mathematics and science, which reach an audience of more than 10 million users worldwide each month.

Recalling the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which occurred during his first few weeks as an MBA student, Khan spoke of the strong community he found at the Business School.

“ my new classmates helped me appreciate that the world was going to be okay,” Khan said. “They represented nearly every culture and community on the planet Earth, and they often disagreed, but they communicated.”

Going on to call the present an “inflection point” in the progress of civilization—due to rapid technological development—Khan urged members of the graduating class to embrace their positions as leaders in an array of fields in order to empower positive change across the globe.

“What type of reality humanity ends up in isn’t a flip of a coin. It isn’t random,” he said. “It will be dependent on the decisions you make. It will be dependent on the opportunities you take. It will be dependent on the cultures that you become a part of and how you choose to lead them. It will be dependent on the great leaps forward that are the products of your current daydreams.”

Casey D. Gerald, a 2014 graduate of the Business School and co-founder and CEO of MBAs Across America, a non-profit working to revitalize entrepreneurship and prosperity in the U.S., delivered the ceremonies’ student remarks.

“And as we leave this place for the final time,” Gerald said, “I hope that we have learned compassion, and trust, and sacrifice if nothing else. I hope that we have realized the purpose of life and renewed our belief in the possibility of life. I hope that we have taken a few chances, shed a few tears, and changed a few of our opinions.”

Also recognized in the ceremonies were four faculty members—professor Catherine S.M. Duggan, professor J. Gunnar Trumbull, professor Nori Gerardo Lietz, and professor David A. Moss—elected as exemplary mentors by the graduating class.

—Staff writer Alexander H. Patel can be reached at Follow him on twitter @alexhpatel.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: May 28, 2014

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Business School Class Day speaker Salman Khan.