As he spoke to the newly-minted Masters and Ph.D. graduates who comprise the Tepper School’s Class of 2011, fellow alumnus — and Nobel laureate — Oliver Williamson exhorted the crowd to celebrate the school’s unique and rigorous preparation:
“You have seen it work, and you are well-positioned to carry on this tradition,” he said. “Big challenges await.”
Williamson, who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009, spoke at the Tepper School’s masters diploma ceremony. He advised his audience to “keep your antenna in alert mode,” be adaptable and to take advantage of others’ knowledge. He also suggested that the graduates “will be moving on to re-shape the world in the years ahead.”
That was exactly what Williamson set out to do after earning his PhD from what was then known as the Graduate School of Industrial Administration in 1963. Though he went on to a most celebrated and distinguished career, Williamson said the time he spent as a business student at Carnegie Mellon “was the most important intellectual event in my life.”
Citing the names of several faculty and students from his era who also would go on to earn Nobel Prizes, Williamson referred to the early 1960s as “the Camelot years” of GSIA.
“You knew you were in the company of young Turks who were on a mission to transform social science research and teaching, proceeding heedless of disciplinary boundaries,” he told the MBA class. “That orientation, together with hard work and a lot of give and take, was the formula for a lot of success.”
The list of winners was, indeed, impressive: Robert Lucas, Merton Miller, Franco Modigliani, Herb Simon, Edward Prescott, Finn Kydland, and — most recently — Dale Mortensen.
“The beat goes on. This is a remarkable record,” Williamson said. “Never since have I experienced such intellectual excitement.”
He suggested that the Tepper School’s commitment to excellence, combined with students who are disciplined, interdisciplinary and have active minds, “will assuredly bring us more of the same.”
“You are part of a proud tradition,” he told the audience. “You graduates have earned a unique place in the firmament.”
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View a video of Dr. Williamson's keynote speech