There is a point in the Yale SOM commencement that has become a tradition. A faculty member steps to the podium and instructs the students to turn towards the crowd assembled behind them and give their families and friends a round of applause. On most graduation days, the audience sports suits and dresses, with sunglasses to cut down the late May glare. But this year, when the 230 graduates of the Class of 2011—212 full-time students and 18 MBA-e students—faced the assembled group, they were met with a sea of plastic Yale-blue ponchos, umbrellas, and eyeglasses speckled with rain.
The downpour couldn't dampen the sense of pride, excitement, and nostalgia on a day students had worked towards for the last two years. It was also a day to thank Dean Sharon Oster, who presided over her third and final commencement as Yale SOM's leader. She will conclude her term as dean on June 30. John Metz '11, who was chosen to speak by the full-time class, thanked Oster for her service, adding, "We are a very lucky class to have the pleasure of your deanship from orientation to commencement."
Oster made no mention of her transition back to senior faculty member after fulfilling her term as dean, instead choosing to focus on the meaning of management education and the good she believes the graduating class will do for the world. "We need to celebrate management leadership done well with energy, passion, and integrity," she said. "This is the management of the kind we expect from all of you, whatever sector you embrace."
She added that when she first met the Class of 2011, she expected that they would contribute to Yale during their time here, leaving it a better place. "I think we satisfied the terms of the contract," she said.
Metz offered a tongue-in-cheek defense of the value of a Yale SOM diploma, cataloging all the benefits students receive at school, from the courses themselves, to the many distinguished speakers who come to campus, to all the leadership opportunities with the school's many student clubs. "We learned to think of the world's problems as an opportunity to contribute, as calls to action," he said. "We began to believe we could lead others. In a sense, our tuition bought our new future selves."
Dr. Jonathan Heavey MBA-e '11 delivered an address on behalf of the MBA for Executives: Leadership in Healthcare graduates and echoed Metz's emphasis on leadership as service. He quoted Plato, telling the students that not only were they graduates of Yale now, they were members of the "guardian class." "You will lead the greatest country on earth to a brighter future," he said.