The IMD MBA class of 2017 has just graduated, wrapping up an intense year-long learning journey.

The inspiring ceremony was opened by IMD Professor and Program Director, Ralf Boscheck who warmly thanked everyone involved in making the IMD MBA an experience-of-a-lifetime from faculty to all support staff.

Following your moral compass

Completing his final year in his current mandate as MBA program director, Professor Boscheck said that it was truly an honor and a pleasure to have held the role and to have had such an outstanding class as his last. “You need to understand your own moral compass, to live it and inspire others to trust in it,” he said providing parting words of wisdom to the graduates.

The keynote speaker at the ceremony was accomplished IMD MBA alumnus and current CEO of the Maersk group, Søren Skou, who said that he knew from experience that the moment marked an important step in the professional careers and lives of the graduates.

Mr Skou told the audience how he graduated in 1997 when Ralf Boscheck was still a professor.  “I have an inkling of how you feel today; you have great expectations of what the future will bring. IMD has given you an invaluable tool box if you want to succeed in business or quite simply in life. I was honored to be invited to speak at my Alma Mater. The IMD MBA changed my life in a big way. I gained confidence. It boosted my career. I gained friends for life and a solid network that I can tap into even 20 years later,” he said.

Finding your purpose

The number one responsibility the new graduates have is to find their purpose and to make an impact on the world, said Mr Skou. “IMD is one of the best in leadership development and you will be well placed to be a business leader. I congratulate you on surviving IMD and wish you great success.”

The graduates were presented with their degrees by Max Floerke, MBA Program Manager, IMD President Jean-François Manzoni and Ralf Boscheck.

MBA alumni and former Welshe Woman Award winners Andrea Michahelles and Sílvia Simões introduced the Welshe Women Award winner for 2017. The Welshe Award was founded by Jillian Welshe who graduated from IMD’s MBA program in 1989 and created the Welshe award to honor outstanding women from the IMD MBA before she passed away in 1999. This year the prize went to Beatrice Maccaferri.

Jean-François Manzoni announced the Hepper Award winner, a prize that goes to the most altruistic member of the class as voted by their peers in honor of Michael Hepper, an IMD MBA participant who passed away in a tragic accident two weeks before graduating from the program in 1997. His classmates established the award in his remembrance. Noah Lev was granted the prize for 2017. 

Creating lasting impact

“I am happy to say that being here today is certainly one of the most pleasant and rewarding days of the year for me. I am proud to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2017 and I have no doubt that over the coming years you will have a significant impact on the world,” said President Manzoni during his address.

Building on a quote from the late Sumantra Ghoshal, Manzoni told the graduates “Leaders are not paid to preside over the inevitable: they’re paid to make happen what otherwise would not have happened, and do so in a way that leaves the economic, ecological and social system stronger – or at least as strong – as they found it. That is a very ambitious goal, and it is the one you must strive for.”

He encouraged them to nurture five key dimensions to lead a successful and fulfilling career and life: Diligence, mindfulness, learning and reflection, generosity, and above all striving to do the right thing. Wishing the future business leaders a final word of farewell Manzoni said: “We look forward to hearing about your successes and about the challenges you will face along the way. Good luck to all of you, and don’t forget to write!”

Next MBA graduates Zehra Ali and Daniel Kearney spoke to their classmates about the next steps in their lives and careers and looked back at their MBA journey, showing pictures of some of the highlights and more humorous moments of the year.

“One of the most enriching parts of the experience was the amazing diversity of geography and industries we all came from,” said Daniel. “There was a professional hunter, a dolphin trainer, a French naval officer, a ballerina, a pop music expert, and an aspiring chef. It was a unique group of people that defy the MBA label.”

Learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable

“We’ve all been able to bring our individuality forward and step away from the stereotypes and work very well together as men and women,” said Zehra.

Some of their key learnings were learning how to be comfortable being uncomfortable and spreading the leadership to everybody in their lives – to make an impact and look out for others, they explained.

“Our engagement as a class does not end today. There’s so much more that we can do for ourselves and others. We’ve come together as a family,”

Zehra and Daniel thanked Ralf Boschek for his service to IMD and the MBA program for the previous 4 years.

“Don’t forget to live. I wish you all the best to you and your families,” said Ralf Boscheck wishing the graduates and emotional goodbye.

Watch the ceremony in full