Gerardo Hamilton, WG’80, waited 25 years to walk onto Franklin Field wearing a cap and gown. At Wharton’s graduation on May 15, 2005, he finally got his chance. He marched as part of an Alumni Processional to welcome the newest Wharton MBAs into the ranks of alumni. In its second year, the processional is a tradition in the making, linking generations of Wharton graduates on the most joyous day on the academic calendar. Sixty alumni—representing every reunion class from 1950 to 2000—donned mortarboards and black robes to march from Houston Hall to Franklin Field and greet the class of 2005.

Hamilton, the director of MX Promo, an advertising specialties firm in Mexico City, completed his coursework during the summer of 1980, so he just missed participating in the May ceremony with his 1980 MBA classmates. He always regretted it. In Philadelphia for his 25th reunion, Hamilton said, “For me, it’s like I’m graduating from Wharton 25 years to the day when I should have been there. As life goes on, you need these memories.”

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At an alumni brunch before the procession, friends Tony Asmann and John Kaufman, both WG’55, flipped through the graduation program Asmann had carefully preserved. In 1955, the University of Pennsylvania’s graduation unfolded on a hot, steamy day in the Civic Center. They recalled how they sweltered in their academic regalia, waiting for their class of about a hundred new MBAs to stand together and be recognized as a group at the University-wide ceremony. Now friends for 50 years, the two men returned to Wharton from Chester County, PA, to march again.

Helen Lowe Eliason, of Wilmington, DE, and Lorene Myers Southworth, of Allentown, PA, both WG’50, came to see the changes in Wharton. They recalled that as the only women in their MBA class, they encountered resentment from classmates and faculty alike. Said Eliason, “If there were two empty seats in the lecture hall, they were on either side of us.” Standing in line next to them to receive her academic gown, Lawana Weldon Dumas, WG’85, a marketing director from Haverford, PA, remembers that few such divisions existed by the time she graduated. Wharton’s student body—then, as now, highly diverse—had ensured that everyone was open to new ideas.

Thomas Sebring, WG’55, bypassed other reunion events, but took the train from Paoli, PA, to participate in graduation. “When I was invited, I thought it was a wonderful idea,” he said. “It’s very meaningful to make connections across generations.” Standing along Franklin Field, he held the satin banner for his class as Wharton’s new MBAs streamed past. From a distance, it was hard to tell who had graduated that day and whose student days were a half-century in the past, or even who was female or male. Only the colors stood out—black robes adorned with gold, red, and Wharton blue.

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A Challenge to Lead

Dean Patrick Harker and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan exhort graduates to lead responsibly

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On May 15, 2005, at the University of Pennsylvania’s historic Franklin Field, Wharton graduated nearly 600 undergraduates and 900 MBAs (from both the traditional MBA program and the MBA Program for Executives). A week earlier, 84 graduates of the Wharton West MBA Program for Executives were honored at a San Francisco commencement.

Diverse in age, experience and background, and some separated by a continent, these graduates comprised the single Wharton School Class of 2005—the latest addition to the ranks of alumni.

“We expect you—as Joseph Wharton did—to be leaders,” said Dean Patrick T. Harker, speaking before graduates, alumni, faculty, family, and friends. “By definition, leaders are not just in it for themselves. Leaders are in it for others.” Harker continued: “Leaders are not defined by the authority they have, but by the responsibility they take for those without authority, for those who have entrusted their well-being—by choice or by circumstance—to others.”

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After Harker’s remarks, Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Board of Governors of Federal Reserve and recipient of the Dean’s Medal, addressed MBA recipients, elaborating on the importance of trust and fair-dealing in business. He was pleasantly surprised that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which gives chief executives greater accountability regarding their company’s financial records, has functioned as well as it has. “Rules exist to govern behavior, but rules cannot substitute for character,” he said. “In the years going forward, it will be your reputation—for integrity, judgment, and other qualities of character—that will determine your success in life and in business.”

Greenspan added: “Material success is possible in this world, and far more satisfying, when it comes without exploiting others. The true measure of a career is to be able to be content, even proud, that you succeeded through your own endeavors without leaving a trail of casualties in your wake.”

Duane Bernt, WG’05, selected as a student speaker from among the MBA Program for Executives cohort, echoed this theme, calling upon his classmates to be “champions of integrity” throughout their lives and careers.