Commencement 2009

Words of Wisdom to the Class of 2009: Character Counts.

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Amy Wolf
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Vanderbilt University
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May 8, 2009

On Friday, May 8, Jim Bradford, Dean of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, led the procession as the 304 Class of 2009 graduates entered the white tent on the Magnolia Lawn to the smiles of families and friends. Of these students, 252 received their MBA degrees, including 49 who earned the degree through the school’s Executive Program; 29 earned an MS Finance degree, and 23 a Master of Accountancy degree. The inaugural class for the Master of Management in Health Care Degree will receive their diplomas in August 2009 and will have a graduation ceremony in September 2009.

Chad Holliday, chairman of the board of DuPont, delivered a dynamic, concise commencement address, using short stories to illustrate the theme “Character Counts.” He first counseled graduates to thoroughly research each company they work for to ensure that it operates to the highest ethical standards in all cases. He shared two personal stories of international ethics issues to show how DuPont lives by that principle. Holliday advised graduates to ask themselves three simple questions to test the ethics of any decision: Would you be proud if your manager knew what you chose to do? Your family? What if your action was printed in the newspaper? Holliday also related a poignant story about a 2005 trip in which he met a man who took time to ask him personal questions and really understand him. That encounter was so unique, so special, that it left a lasting impact on Holliday. “That person was a first-term senator from Illinois named Barack Obama,” Holliday said. He closed his speech by telling graduates: “You can have your own Barack Obama story if you have that same level of caring for every other person you meet.”

Jon Lehman, Associate Dean of Students and Associate Dean for Health Care Management, presented the awards to graduating students. He first recognized the members of the Beta Gamma Sigma International Honor Society, an honor bestowed on graduates who rank in the top 20 percent of their class.


Awards and Recognition for Graduating Students

At the Vanderbilt University commencement ceremony earlier that morning, Justin Steiner (MBA ’09) was awarded the Vanderbilt Founder’s Medal for the Owen School. This award, originally endowed by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1877, is given to graduates who achieve the strongest record in personal, professional and academic performance. Justin also received the Bruce D. Henderson Merit Prize for highest honors as a first-year student in the MBA program.

LEFT: The Steiner family celebrates with Justin on winning the 2009 Vanderbilt Founder’s Medal for the Owen School.

During the graduation festivities, several other students were recognized for their achievements.

  • Kevin Cragholm (MBA ’09) received the Matt Wigginton Leadership Award, awarded for outstanding performance in finance.
  • Ryan Dix (MBA ’09)was presented with the H. Igor Ansoff Award, which recognizes original and creative contributions to the school.
  • Astrid Huebner (MBA ’09) was given the Flournoy A. Coles Jr. Prize in recognition of outstanding performance in international management studies.
  • Seven graduating MBA students were presented with the Owen Service Award for outstanding effort and energy in leadership, community involvement and student life. They are:  Rachel Barnhard, Ethan Dunham, Ryan Igleheart, Jonathan McEvoy, Bella Parekh, Lisa Stowers and Erin White.
  • Ryan Meredith (EMBA ’09) received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Executive MBA program.
  • Patrick Quirk  (EMBA ’09) received the Martin S. Geisel Award for Leadership in Executive Education.
  • David Lax (MSF ’09) earned the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence for the Master of Science in Finance.
  • Stephen Valenta (MAcc ’09) earned the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence for the Master of Accountancy.
  • Dean Lehman also announced the winners of the Dean’s Challenge, four students from the graduating class who successfully defeated the Dean in unique personal challenges: Paras Agarwal (MBA ’09), Matt Dauphinais (MBA ’09), Obed Oliveras (MBA ’09) and Tate Rich (MBA ’09).
Dean Lehman closed his speech with a moving send-off to graduates. “You will forever be remembered as the class that graduated into a ferocious storm,” Lehman said, “But the sun will shine again, and you will be steeled and stronger for the experience.”

Awards and Recognition for Faculty

  • Richard L. Oliver, Professor of Marketing at Owen since 1990, was named Professor Emeritus. A world-renowned expert on customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and post-purchase processes, Oliver is the author of the book Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer. Oliver earned his PhD in 1973 from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and held faculty positions at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Washington University in St. Louis prior to joining Owen.
  • Nick Bollen, E. Bronson Ingram Professor in Finance and Faculty Director for the Master of Science in Finance, received the Faculty Research Impact Award. Bollen's current research on hedge funds has appeared in the top finance journals, including the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics, the Review of Financial Studies and the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis.
  • Jacob Sagi, Financial Markets Research Center Professor of Finance, received the Faculty Research Productivity Award.  An expert on financial economics and decision theory, Sagi conducts research in the areas of asset pricing and decision-making under risk and uncertainty. His research has appeared in many of the top journals including Econometrica, The Journal of Economic Theory, The Journal of Financial Economics, Economic Theory and Journal of Mathematical Economics.
  • Craig Lewis, Madison S. Wigginton Professor of Management in Finance, was selected by the MBA class of 2009 to receive the James A. Webb Excellence in Teaching Award. A CPA who worked for Arthur Young prior to joining academia, Lewis teaches Corporate Valuation, one of the most loved (and feared) classes in the MBA program. Lewis also teaches Managerial Finance in the Executive MBA program. This is sixth time that Lewis has received top honors for teaching excellence at Owen.
  • Michael Burcham, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship, was selected by the Executive MBA class of 2009 to receive the Executive MBA Outstanding Professor Award. A serial entrepreneur in the health care industry, Burcham offers his practical experience and insight as a CEO to the opportunities and challenges of the Strategy Project which runs throughout the second year of the Executive MBA program.

Other awards and recognition

  • Earlier in the year, Andrew Heiman (MBA ’09) was honored with the Financial Executives Institute Award for outstanding performance in both accounting and finance.
  • Michael Saint (EMBA ’98), founder, CEO and chairman of The Saint Consulting Group, was recognized with Owen’s 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award. After a career in journalism, politics and public relations, Saint founded his firm in 1983; today it is the world's largest firm in the new management consulting discipline of land use politics serving clients from 10 offices in the United States, and from one each in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management is ranked as a top institution by BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report, Financial Times and Forbes. For more information about Owen, visit or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.