Before the financial crisis of 2008, Middlebury College had a long and beneficial relationship with Lehman Brothers, the financial firm that filed for the largest bankruptcy ever. Dick Fuld, the company’s CEO at the time it went bankrupt, served as a trustee of the College until last year. He also gave millions to the College (there’s no way to figure out how much exactly, but the total seems to be in the hundreds tens (edit see below) of millions). Lehman Brothers also had a practice of hiring a good deal of caffeinated Middlebury alumni bent on the 70-hour work weeks and big pay checks of the investment banking world. The Middlebury Campus has a good write-up of College’s relationship with Lehman Brothers here.
Fuld testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill on Oct. 6, 2008. Appropriated from Getty Images.
The Middlebury-Lehman liaison is old news at this point, but, buried in this recent piece (of what I think isn’t the most compelling journalism), is an indication of the impact of Lehman and Fuld’s collective collapse on the College:
Fuld is also said to have reneged on a $50 million pledge to Middlebury College. Shortly after Lehman fell, according to a source close to the school’s president, Ronald Liebowitz, Fuld told Liebowitz that he was worth only $100 million and would not be able to honor the commitment. Liebowitz did not reply to a request for comment, but a Middlebury official told Fortune that Fuld “did not renege on a formal pledge as far as I know,” but said it was possible that Fuld might have changed his mind about an “informal” pledge, and that in any event he was “a great trustee and very generous.”
Another aspect of this affair is that, following Lehman’s collapse, Fuld took a beating for his huge salary and management of Lehman. For example, our 2010 commencement speaker Nicolas Kristof announced sarcastically that Fuld was ”the winner of [his] annual Michael Eisner Award for corporate rapacity and poor corporate governance” while making a larger point about CEO compensation.
The Middlebury administration has not publicly criticized Fuld in any way. Fuld is no longer a trustee although his term was originally supposed to expire in 2013.
The Middlebury Class of 2010 graduated yesterday under sunny skies. Commencement speakers Nick Kristof and Sheryll Wudunn spoke about changing the world (what else would they talk about?) and student speaker Peter Baumann ’10 helped explain what recession meant for the class. Overall, a very successful Sunday for Middlebury.
Curiously, there was no live feed of the commencement ceremony. It’s been increasingly common for institutions to live broadcast the events for alumni, parents, and others who feel connected to the community. Middlebury kept it low-tech.
Video of Wudunn and Kristof is here. But the text of the speech is strangely absent from the College website, at the request of Wudunn and Kristof. Peter Baumann ’10 delivered a poignant speech, the first one in years that didn’t have more joke lines than nuggets of wisdom. The text of Baumann’s address is here and video here.
Of course, the 24 hours prior to the ceremony were full of all-night debauchery ending of course, with the sunrise at the football stadium and a 6am breakfast with President Liebowitz at Steve’s Park Diner. Middlebury may not have a lot of traditions, but that is one of them. Rumors have it that a bonfire down at the modular homes required both the fire department and a rousing rendition of “There’s Only One Middlebury….” Enough said.
Two students, Audrey Tolbert ’13 and Cody Gohl ’13 have their take on the graduation ceremony on their summer blog, English Spoken Here.
7Days reveals that WuDunn and Kristof’s son has been accepted to Middlebury but likely will take a gap year. Look out class of 2015… Also, WuDunn and Kristof considered going to Japanese school at Middlebury but chose to learn in New York for family reasons.
BFP had a few key quotes and the list of Vermont students graduating for Middlebury.
Photos of the event by Isaac Sadaqah are great, including the early morning shot in this post.
The Campus announced this morning that New York Times columnist Nick Kristof will deliver a joint commencement address on May 23rd with his spouse Sheryl WuDunn. In 1990, the married couple both won the Pultizer Prize for their coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. WuDunn, the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer, is now an author and businesswoman. Kristof continues at the NY Times, writing primarily on human rights conditions, development strategies, and global poverty particularly in Asia and Africa. The pair is anticipated to “ask this generation to tackle the issue of gender inequality in all its future endeavors.”
Kristof and WuDunn, quoted in The Campus, had this to say about Middlebury:
Kristoff: “Middlebury has been pretty successful at cultivating an international response ethos where students lean from the world and engage it,” Kristof said. “That’s something I admire and encourage.”
WuDunn: “Students are much more service oriented…They really feel they want to be proactive about [making a difference]. We’re seeing that and we’re extremely excited about it.”
My thought is that this is a good choice for Middlebury. Past graduation speakers have been a bit of a sore spot for graduating seniors (other than the class of 2007 who had Bill Clinton). Kristof is a well-known figure that fits Middlebury’s self-proclaimed international strengths and seniors should be glad to throw around that name when comparing notes with other college seniors nationwide (he’s a big deal, even if your friends have never heard of him). Still, I have a hard time imagining a joint-address, but I’m sure they’ve done it before.
MiddBlog wants to know: What do you think of Kristof and WuDunn? Do the pair match your expectations?
New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof picked on Richard Fuld of bankrupt Lehman Bros today with a piece titled: “Need a Job? $17,000 an Hour. No Success Required.”
If any students were listening to professors across campus crack jokes about freshly unemployed MiddKids these last few days (no matter how un-funny it is), you’ll know Dick Fuld is a big name on campus. Not only is he the parent of children who attended Middlebury, but he also sits on Middlebury College’s Board of Trustees.