I went to my 25th/27th business school reunion this weekend.
It’s hard to describe how amazing it was to gather with friends and act like not much time has gone by. It’s trite but true: time goes by quickly, and reunions are life milestones.
I’ve volunteered to help out with nearly all of my reunions, as it is fun to interact with classmates. It was even more so this time around: when the Covid lockdowns began and vaccines were not yet on the horizon, none of us knew what would happen. But, Joanne Hoffer, Jody Fink, and I texted daily to make wry comments, share news articles, and support each other.
I call them “J&J,” and we together call ourselves “the J-Crew.” A combination of the three of us has co-chaired all our b-school reunions, and we have evolved from being friends to being like siblings. In fact, J&J are so close to me, that I invited them to sit in on my first “last day” presentation to my students.
On the last day of a course at HBS, professors are allowed to give life advice. I have a personal goal to try to help change the arc of my students’ lives. It sounds weird, but that is what Bill Sahlman and Clay Christensen did for me. To this day, for example, our Section still talks about Clay’s “last day” advice to us 28 years ago.
J&J have been pillars for me. My last day talk covers my Second Story, you know, the parts of our past that we hide from others and from ourselves as we polish our First Story to show the world. The first time I gave my Last Day talk to students, my hands shook for two days afterwards. So, I normally invite a few friends for support.
It’s a long story, but both HBS and J&J asked me to give my talk at the reunion. The idea of being so open in front of my classmates really freaked me out, but I thought it would be good for me to practice what I preach and embrace my Second Story. And why not see if the talk can help my Classmates? Then, the school asked if they could invite the other 10 reunion classes. A few weeks later, they asked if they could move the talk to Klarman Hall, the auditorium that seats 1,000 people.
It was an out-of-body experience for me.
Thankfully, friends showed up early to take front seats to be supportive. Others saw the livestream. Mrs. T. and two of our children were in the hall, and it was thrilling to see them. Seeing supporters and knowing others were there gave me the strength to say what I needed to say. I didn’t shed tears, though I literally felt like throwing up as Jody introduced me and as I walked onto the stage.
After my talk, I walked over to J&J. We spontaneously put our heads together for a few seconds and hugged and held each other. I think it’s my favorite photo of the reunion, given all that we’ve been through together, and it reminded me of how lucky I have been to have such good friends.
Thankfully, the reunion seemed to go well. HBS was the only Harvard school to commit to physical make-up reunions after Covid cancelled all gatherings; as a result, it had 50 classes return this spring over five weekends. (It also was the only school to have virtual reunions for each class after the in-person gatherings were cancelled and to offer a hybrid option to students.) Amazingly, it all worked out. Ever true, J&J already are talking about ways to improve our 30th reunion.
Last, a big shout out to the Class of 1995 25th reunion team. Many worked on four total Reunion events: our initial 25th Reunion that was Covid-waylaid after nearly all the work was done, the Class “Zoom Boom” online talent show, our virtual reunion, and our make-up physical reunion. What a crew! Their names are below.
A wonderful Juneteenth to all. I’m glad it is now a Federal holiday and a day off in many states.