By KRISTEN GREEN ’14
Last Thursday, members of Wellesley’s Class of 2014 crowded in Tishman Commons for Senior Soiree, the annual event sponsored by the Senior Class Gift Committee to celebrate the ending of their final Wellesley semester and to reveal the commencement speaker. This year, the Class of 2014 has selected Susan Wagner ’82 to give the address at Wellesley’s 136th commencement ceremony.
Wagner studied English and economics at Wellesley and went on to earn an MBA at the University of Chicago. She founded BlackRock, now a major investment management company, with seven others when she was only 26. Today, BlackRock is cited as one of the most influential financial institutions in the world.
The process that led to Wagner’s selection as commencement speaker actually began nearly a year ago, in May of 2013, when the newly elected presidents of Wellesley’s rising senior class, Christie Lee ’14 and Erica Choo ’14, sent out a survey to members of the Class of 2014 through which students could weigh in on the selection process.
Eventually, after Lee and Choo discussed the results of the survey with College administrators, including Dean of Students Debra DeMeis, and narrowed down the top fields and people of interest, they came up with a list of 10 contenders.
“At that point, the Board of Trustees, President of the College, Public Relations, and other highly visible and important administration [members] determine which people they would be able to reach through their personal network,” Lee explains. “Then, the College sends an invitation out to the one individual that we [those involved in the selection process] believe the senior class would like to hear from, the College can plausibly get and would best uphold the integrity of the College.”
Until the night of Senior Soiree, only those involved in the selection process, including the class presidents, know the identity of the commencement speaker.
Lee said that Wagner, as a pioneer in her field and creator of a major corporation, reflects the survey responses the Class of 2014 sent in at end of the spring 2013 semester. Yet it was not just her impressive resume that appealed to the selection team. Wagner, as a member of Wellesley’s Board of Trustees, continues to be strongly connected to the College community. In addition, Lee, explains, many people wrote to Wellesley on Wagner’s behalf, emphasizing her strong character as a leader in many aspects of her life.
Lee also emphasized the value of having a distinguished alumna of Wellesley deliver the parting words to the Class of 2014.
“Not only does Sue understand our unique Wellesley experiences of the past, but she has specific insight into the possibilities that we as graduates from Wellesley will have in the future,” she said.