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Find a Niche and Prioritize, Graduates Told

June 21, 2013

More than 3,000 family and friends filled Chicago’s Arie Crown Theater on June 15 to witness the diploma and hooding ceremony for 799 students receiving degrees for Master of Business Administration, International Master of Business Administration, and Doctor of Philosophy.

The convocation paid tribute to Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Fogel, 86 who died June 11. 

Fogel, an economic historian, used quantitative methods to explain the development of the United States, focusing on slavery and the growth of the railroads. Fogel was Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions and a faculty member at the University of Chicago Department of Economics.

“He led a professional life of impeccable integrity that he found immensely rewarding and the world found extremely consequential,” dean Sunil Kumar told the graduates. “May you all aspire to lead such lives.

The ceremony also honored Eugene F. Fama, Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, who is marking 50 years at Booth this year and is recognized as the father of modern finance for his groundbreaking research on market efficiency.

Fama, who received his MBA and PhD from Booth in 1964, advised graduates to find work that they love. 

“Get into a field where work is a pleasure,” Fama said. “I love my work. I have no intention of ever stopping as long as I am breathing, and I may do it after that. So I wish the same for you: that you find work that is pleasurable and rewarding.”

Graduates also received advice from Tom Pritzker, MBA ’76, JD ’76, executive chairman of Hyatt Hotels Corp. and chairman and CEO of Chicago’s Pritzker Organization.

Pritzker offered graduates three rules for personal development and three rules for business success. He started with the personal advice.

“Rule No. 1: Experience matters. There is a whole lot of IQ in this auditorium today. But what’s in short supply in the business world is judgment. The best way to hone your judgment is by getting as many experiences as you can,” Pritzker said.

“Rule No. 2: Attitude matters,” Pritzker continued. “If you develop the ability to change your attitude, it will arm you with skills and tools you can use when you run into problems.”

Pritzker’s third rule for personal development came with some levity: “Rule No. 3: And this is the most important of all: Call your parents a lot,” he said.

Pritzker’s three rules for business success were equally meaningful.

“Rule No. 1 is People. People. People. If you get the people right, the business works. The numbers are never as important as the people,” he said.

“Rule No. 2: “Avoid playing on a level playing field. Find a competitive advantage and play in that space.” Pritzker said.

“Rule No. 3: In every endeavor, you need to force yourself to prioritize and focus on those priorities,” he said. “Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Try and find a niche and own that niche.”

Finally, Pritzker offered advice on how graduates could make a difference beyond the business world.

“Giving back is about getting involved and engaged with an opportunity to do something for society,” Pritzker said. “What you’re going to find is that you’ll meet really interesting people. They’re going to be different than the people you meet in your normal daily life, and you’ll have great experiences that fully enrich your life.”

Kumar offered his parting thoughts to the graduates. “By choosing to be leaders of business, you’ve chosen lives of action,” he said. “Act ably. Act thoughtfully with all deliberate haste. And above all, act with integrity. Act true to your conscience and to yourself.”—John Slania