Attendees breathed in the rarefied air of the Metropolitan Club in Midtown Manhattan. When the Wharton Club of New York presents its annual Joseph Wharton Awards Dinner, it draws big names from the alumni community. The master of ceremonies, Bill Griffeth, long-time financial journalist and co-anchor of CNBC’s Closing Bell, is alone worth the proverbial price of admission. Most appealing is the optimism and energy that charges the event, perhaps none more so than this year.
This year represents the 28th Joseph Wharton Awards event put on by the Wharton Club of New York, and the eighth year in a row in its current resurgent form. Each year’s winners are voted on by previous years’ honorees. It is no mean feat.
And often, these previous winners have the pleasure of introducing the new awardees.
Such was the case when William L. Mack, W’61, introduced Ronald O. Perelman, W’64, WG’66, as this year’s Lifetime Achievement award winner. In listing the business and philanthropic accomplishments of the chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes, Mack stated:
“I don’t know how you have time to do all that, but it’s great.”
Perelman gave the credit in large part to Wharton, where he gained discipline, focus and the tools to ply his trade. He learned how to back entrepreneurial instinct with decision-making and quantification.
For Jacob Wallenberg, W’80, WG’81, winner of the Joseph Wharton Award for Leadership, ties to family and School were also pivotal. As chairman of Investor AB, Wallenberg oversees a company that has been in his family for five generations. He credited Wharton with giving him a global business perspective, particularly the U.S. value system.
“You have to live it to learn it,” he said.
His son Jacob, a current Wharton sophomore, was on hand to witness his father’s honor, and on campus to “live it to learn it too.”
Last year’s Young Leadership honoree, Ivanka Trump, W’04, introduced the 2013 winner: Brett Hurt, WG’99, co-founder and vice chairman of Bazaarvoice and Austin-based venture capitalist. Hurt echoed Perelman’s words about his Wharton experience.
“I had an absolute transformation at Wharton,” he told the audience. “I literally came out of my shell.”
His appreciation for Wharton only grows each time he returns to campus. As a former student entrepreneur himself, Hurt is astounded by the number of student entrepreneurs today and the amount of resources available to them on campus.
D. Wayne Silby, W’70, founding chairman and finance committee chair of the pioneering Calvert Social Funds, is equally struck by the amount of energy on campus for social impact. It is no coincidence that he earned distinction as this year’s Joseph Wharton Award for Social Impact winner.
As last year’s winner, Dr. David B. Nash, WG ’86, put it, “Wayne Silby is a reformed hippie.”
But as Silby explained to the audience, he was one of the first financiers to infuse his investing strategies with the social consciousness he imbibed as a student of the late ’60s. The momentum of social entrepreneurship among Wharton’s students, and of impact investing among the global financial community, is in no small part thanks to his efforts at the Social Venture Network, Calvert and the Grameen Foundation, among many others.
Inspired by the varied accomplishments of their peers and hearing their enthusiasm for Wharton’s diverse student body, attendees no doubt left the dinner with a renewed appreciation for how Wharton really does “mean business,” as Professor Adam Grant recently and aptly explained in his LinkedIn Influencer article, “Wharton Has an Image Problem.”
Editor’s note: Read more about last year’s Joseph Wharton Award winners in my blog, “The Next Class of Joseph Wharton Awardees.”