We are now into the seventh week of remote work due to the COVID-19 lockdown, and we're all still trying to cope and adjust to living and working in these “new normal” circumstances. Amid the existential fears provoked by this crisis, the University has had to forgo the traditional commencement ceremonies that would have been held this week, much to our dismay.

So, to the D'Amore-McKim Class of 2020, I want you to know that you are an immense source of pride for us. You engaged and challenged yourself as you explored new intellectual and professional goals, and you also learned with, and learned from, a wonderfully diverse set of people. It is sad that you are missing out on the rite of passage of celebrating a milestone accomplishment with your loved ones. You are missing out on the joy of saying thanks face-to-face to your families, friends, faculty, and staff. You have every right to be unhappy, frustrated, and disappointed that this happened to you. I want to acknowledge and share in your feelings of loss during this unprecedented time.

I wanted to share with you some advice for the future, but I realized I know a lot of other people who would have some great “words of wisdom” too. So, I reached out to several friends of D'Amore-McKim to ask if they would share a message of hope with you during this trying time. Following is the tremendous response I received:

As D'Amore-McKim graduates, you have seen a great deal of unexpected change. You have had classes move to a virtual world, plans and programs put on hold, interviews cancelled, and opportunities postponed. Despite all that has happened, there are several things that haven't changed: 1) Our need for talented new leaders who can help us navigate through areas such as analytics, business intelligence, and automation. 2) Our need for independent thinkers with a diversity of experiences and backgrounds. 3) Our need for a whole new generation who fully understand the need for social responsibility in the pursuit of business objectives. Today, it is even more critical for us to have you with us, helping to deliver on our promises to stakeholders, our customers, and our communities. Let me speak for all my business peers – you are needed.

Kurt F. Bock, PhD, CFA, Former Chief Executive Officer, COUNTRY Financial

I am truly sorry that you are unable to fully celebrate this important day with your classmates, professors, family, and other loved ones. We must stop and acknowledge what you have achieved, the friends you have made, and the great education you received at Northeastern. I am sure many of you will be holding online celebrations. Alas, that is not the same for you, your parents, and loved ones who want to give you a big hug, but for the coming months, we will have to be grateful for our virtual hugs. Eventually we will recover from this crisis. We will recover because of people like you who have the skills and values to make the contributions society needs. I joined the Northeastern faculty because I saw a university providing a uniquely valuable education. It is clear from all the impressive initiatives going on that your degree will only become more valuable over your career. I am currently part of the Northeastern team creating online programs to help professionals become better value creators – a core lifetime responsibility. In a year or so I hope I will meet you online as part of one of our programs. Please join and say hello. The world is moving fast, make sure your Northeastern education never stops. Congratulations, all the best, and be safe.

Curtis R. Carlson, Ph.D., D'Amore-McKim Professor of Practice and former President and CEO of SRI International

I have dealt with an adverse economic climate a few times in my career, but what you have had to deal with over the past few weeks has been unprecedented and will make you more resilient and elastic. Economic uncertainty is uncomfortable whether you have a job or looking for one. We at ServiceNow are honored to have hired so many D'Amore-McKim students over the past few years who are doing wonderful things in many of our departments. Your co-op program is very unique and differentiated, I am very impressed with the unique curriculum that you all have gone through to prepare you for any job in any industry. Similarly, as the economy goes through its recovery phase, you will have to be more unique, differentiated, and specialized. These tough economic times make employers more efficient which, in turn, forces current and future employees to be the best in what they do. This time shall pass, but I would take the opportunity to learn more about yourself, be focused on your near- and long-term aspirations, and continue to be on a learning journey to acquire the right skills that makes you differentiated. You all are the future leaders of the next generation, and I stay optimistic about your impact on the future of our global business climate filled with innovation. You will make our world better and safer.

Chirantan “CJ” Desai, Chief Product Officer, ServiceNow

We all face difficult choices in our personal and professional lives, and it is hard to find guidance that applies to all such situations. Our natural tendency is to take the easy way out, to avoid controversy, to accede, to defer to the judgment or strong feelings of others. But what are we left with such an approach? Indeed, we are thereby left on a slippery downward slope that ends with us standing for nothing at all. Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, offered his perspective: ‘Never, ‘for the sake of peace and quiet,' deny your own experience or convictions.' Follow this advice and never suffer regret.

Paul F. Levy, Former CEO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston

Congratulations on your achievement. Your degree from Northeastern is a steppingstone into the start of your career. While this is a special time in your life, it can also be a scary time as you venture out into the business world. You are graduating during unprecedented times. Over my 40 years in business, I have experienced some of the worst of times trying to run a business, beginning with the stock market crash of 1987, to 9/11, to the great recession of 2008, and now the Coronavirus. These events have had life changing impacts on me. They helped me become a better manager and leader and gave me the understanding of how to deal with crisis management. The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is far reaching and taking us into uncharted waters. We will come out of the crisis stronger and will learn how to operate under a new normal. My advice would be to stay open minded. Learn from this experience. This challenge will be part of your development in crisis management. There will be a silver lining in these dark clouds, you just can't see it yet. Whatever career path you may have mapped out for yourself today, it is not likely the one you will take. Many people will rightfully tell you that it is important to do what you love, but remember that your first job post-graduation will not be your only job. Now is the time to open new doors and discover new things that you may be passionate about. Focus on pursuing opportunities where you can best apply your talents and demonstrate the knowledge that you've gained at NU. Don't be afraid to explore your options; you may be surprised by what you find. Congratulations and stay strong during these challenging times!

Alan S. McKim, Chairman and CEO, Clean Harbors, Inc.

Honestly, there are so many great speeches made to graduating classes, as well as many awesome quotes by incredible luminaries that provide insightful guidance to those graduating. So how does it make sense for me to pen a few words to the Northeastern graduates of 2020? Why? Because this is an incredible best of time for you in perhaps the worst of times in recent history. So here it goes. To start, congratulations! Now your ‘next journey' begins. Get ready. When I think about my career and post-graduation from the NU Graduate School of Professional Accounting, these points or lessons learned have served me well: 1) ‘Success is when preparedness meets opportunity.' You are now certified as ‘Prepared,' at least academically. As to opportunity, well, I wish the world were not under this pandemic cloud, but it is. However, for some, and I think for you, this will be substantial opportunity. Which leads me to 2) ‘Persistence is Rewarded.' Need I say more? And finally, 3) Work your compassion quotient. If you already score high, great. If not, work on it. For without compassion for your teammates, family, and citizens, you may find that pot at the end of your rainbow elusive or empty. Make it full ????????‍????????????‍????. Fini.

Richard Montoni, Vice Chairman, Maximus

We have entered a new era, and as it unfolds, we will all be required to redefine ourselves and the world around us. This may feel daunting to acknowledge, but the old ‘rules' no longer apply. You likely chose to get your business degree because it would open new doors for you. The years of hard work that got you to this point will be needed to get you through this new era, but you are educated, creative, and strategic. There's a new playbook being written as we speak. You can standby or help draft it; which will you choose? It may not be what you expected, but you have the tools to write the new playbook and be part of how we collectively move forward. Good luck, help write the new playbook, and the doors will indeed open for you.

Karen Page, Partner, B Capital Group and proud NU mom

Congratulations to all of you – you've put in a lot of hard work, completed your co-op stints, and are ready to graduate. Well done! I guess it's unfortunate that you are unable to have a convocation in these present circumstances. However, maybe our celebration needs to be with our families or within ourselves – to introspect and be thankful we are alive against this 0.1-micron assassin. We have food on our plate, we have health on our side – what more can one ask for? Maybe we need to reassess what our priorities in life really are. With all the negative news, we are still seeing the power of humanity, whether it's extremely generous community support world over, entrepreneurial ingenuity, and great scientific collaboration. And therefore, I have every confidence we will come out of this even stronger and healthier! Let us remember ‘this too shall pass'. Class of 2020, I wish each one of you the very best in life.

Meher Pudumjee, Chairperson, Thermax

My son, Bales, should be experiencing his first spring semester at Trinity College. Instead, he is hunkering down with his mother and I in Naples, Florida – 1,800 miles from his sister and his group of friends. He was looking forward to the summer job that he landed, but it was cancelled. The plans that he made have all fallen through, and he's not sure how to plan for an uncertain future. I see how difficult this time is for him, so I believe I can understand how difficult it is for each of you. The media continues to say, ‘this experience will define us'. That could be a bad thing or a good thing. It depends on how you choose to use this time. I'm often asked, ‘what is the key to success?' I believe the answer is the same for a company, a team, or an individual. It's the ability to turn one step backwards into two steps forward. I've asked Bales to use this time to reflect on what is important to him, and where he wants those two steps forward to take him. I hope that you can do the same.

Bill Seibel, Executive Chairman, Boston Digital

Thank you, graduates, for letting me share a few words with you. This moment may not look or feel like you expected, but nothing can ever negate the experiences you have gained, the friends you have made, or the lessons you have learned at Northeastern. My own experiences have taught me to embrace the unexpected and to persevere even when my plans alter and I am thrown off balance. My ask of you is to use the privilege of this fantastic education you have earned at Northeastern and turn your focus now to taking care of each other, your communities, and the world around you. That is what success looks like. That is the best use of the education you have worked so hard for and your own personal legacy of persevering through this challenging time. Light, Truth, Courage.

Nancy Sullivan, MD, CEO, Illinois Ventures

I know how disappointed all of you must be with the cancellation of graduation ceremonies. You must have been looking forward to celebrating this wonderful milestone with friends and family. However, I would encourage you to think about your years on campus with pride. This cancellation does not diminish in any way your many accomplishments during your rigorous study. You have made many friends for life and have memories which you will cherish forever. I wish you the very best as you chart your future course; you are armed well to negotiate what will surely be a brave new world.

Venkat Srinivasan, Managing Director, Innospark

Having weathered through the dot-com bust, 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, the devastating fires in California, and now COVID-19, it's very clear that life will always have its various challenges. From all of these some good did and will come. You come to realize who and what is most important in life. Personal relationships with family, friends, and colleagues are the foundation that pulls us through adversity and allows for innovation, creativity, and the next big idea to make the world a better place. Do not waste this experience; take away from this time the many positives and bring them forward to future generations. Go into your careers with the confidence that being part of the graduating Class of 2020 will make you a better person and a better leader in a more sustainable future. Celebrate all your accomplishments and know that when the next challenge surfaces, you already have a ‘degree' in dealing with them.

Mari Tangredi, Senior Vice President, Cadent

Dean Echambadi asked me to share a few words with you during these unprecedented times that have interrupted plans to hold a traditional in-person graduation. I know he has already started to plan for the day when you can gather and celebrate together when it is safer to do so. I can only imagine how sad and disappointed you must be. Graduation marks the culmination of all your hard work; a time when you walk across the stage to get your diploma and throw up your mortar board in joy, and then go out to celebrate with loved ones. For many it is the time that your whole family celebrates together with hugs, with pride, and with congratulations. For many it is the last time that you will be together with the lifelong friends that you have made and with whom you have shared unique challenges, celebrating successes, and passing milestones. So it must be a real disappointment that, for now, that tradition has been temporarily delayed. What I hope you will not delay is taking some time to contemplate what you have learned, what you have accomplished, and how fortunate you are to be amongst the most educated and prepared for the future. The D'Amore-McKim School of Business is one of the finest, most respected business schools in the world. As an alum, you will be looked up to. You will be given many opportunities. And there will be much expected of you. And all of this future begins now, even before your formal graduation. So take a few moments to think about the past and relish the future. Best wishes and congratulations!

Phyllis M. Wise, Former Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

I echo all of the sentiments expressed by these great leaders and friends. The D'Amore-McKim education you have received will always bestow upon you the well-deserved assumption that you are smart, hard-working, and well trained for the future of work, which was reflected in many of the messages above. I'm confident you will do great things professionally, but we face a crisis and we each have a choice to make about how we respond. As a business graduate, you have been trained to do this. You know what it means to change course, pivot, and make the right decisions depending upon the circumstances. As you work to control your narrative, please remember to be kind to others – kindness is a virtue that will serve you well, because the world needs more great kind leaders.

I wish you and your family best wishes and good health during this difficult time. Thank you for being such wonderful ambassadors for D'Amore-McKim. Make us proud.

Raj Echambadi
Dunton Family Dean
D'Amore-McKim School of Business