When you have 140 years’ of historic milestones and achievements behind you, it is hard to create yet another superlative experience. But HEC Paris did just that in June 2022, when the business school held its biggest—and arguably best—graduation ever, hosting more than 12,000 people on campus.
The magnitude of the school-wide fete, in which all 863 HEC Paris MBA graduates from the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 were invited back to campus to participate in one of three commencement ceremonies, made good on the school’s promise to celebrate in-person the students’ remarkable achievements as soon as the pandemic’s risks had subsided.
For the HEC Paris MBA, the adventure started on Friday, June 10, with a sunset cruise on the Seine. Along with catching up on each other’s lives, the nearly 400 students aboard the sternwheeler the Louisiana Belle and its companion riverboat, the Insolite, were treated to up-close views of many of Paris’ most iconic sights. The boats sailed past the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty on Swans’ Island, and the lovely Beaux-Arts railway station now housing the Musée D’Orsay. A band played near the dance floor and the bartenders served cocktails and canapés until late into the night.
“It was a lovely evening celebrating with classmates who became lifelong friends,” said Luis Raul Martinez, MBA ’20, who has been working in France in the retail and luxury industry, both at Vestiaire Collective and at Chloé, since finishing his courses two years ago.
The next day heralded the official Commencement Ceremony for the HEC Paris MBA and HEC Paris EMBA, as well as the Executive Masters graduates, of the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022. More than 5,000 friends, family and newly minted alumni listened as keynote speaker Serge Ekué, EMBA’11, President of the West African Development Bank, spoke about time, the rise of Africa, and the responsibilities bestowed upon our graduates.
“With your HEC Paris degree, you have learned how to decrypt this ever-changing world,” Ekué said. “Your challenges are huge, because your responsibilities are huge. Remain as committed as ever, with humility.”
Later, former MBA Council President Michael Venditto, MBA’21, took the stage. He gave a rousing speech that also addressed the responsibilities of being a member of the HEC family. “We should all ask ourselves how we want to impact the lives of our family, how we define professional success, what do want to contribute to our communities, and how we want to be remembered by our friends,” he said.
At the end of his speech, the two HEC Paris EMBAs co-hosting the ceremony presented Venditto—the father of three-day-old twins—with a pair of teddy bears sporting HEC T-shirts.
Another MBA speaker, Olamide Ahmed, MBA’22, read the HEC Paris Student Mission Statement, which includes the declaration, “we are determined to put our values of excellence and curiosity, our sense of responsibility and our entrepreneurial spirit to work for the common good to overcome the world’s most pressing challenges.”
To top off the day’s events, a cocktail reception and garden party with four violinists was held immediately following the ceremony. Located just outside the enormous tent erected specifically for the graduation festivities, the menu featured foods from around the world and, of course, champagne.