News at Smith

Former HP Head Carly Fiorina, MBA '80, Delivers Keynote Address at Smith School Commencement

May 22, 2006


Congratulations Smith School Graduates!

Carly Fiorina, former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard and 1980 MBA graduate of the Smith School, delivered the keynote address at the Smith School's commencement ceremony on Monday, May 22, 2006.

Carly Fiorina speaks at 2006 Smith School commencement.

"My first introduction to business was as a secretary. I typed and I filed, because I had to earn enough money to pay my rent. I applied to a business school on that very limited experience. When I applied to the Robert H. Smith School of Business I was rejected," Fiorina related. She called Ed Locke, then-head of the admissions committee (now professor emeritus), and convinced him to accept her into the program. Once in the program, Fiorina began working with Rudy Lamone, who was the dean at the time. "He took a chance on me and treated me like a peer, and treated me seriously," said Fiorina. Locke and Lamone changed the order of things for me, she said. It was the beginning of a truly extraordinary career.

Fiorina spent nearly 20 years at AT&T and Lucent Technologies, where she held a number of senior leadership positions and directed Lucent's initial public offering and subsequent spin-off from AT&T. After joining HP in 1999, she led the company through drastic changes and a controversial merger with Compaq Computer Corp., now recognized as the most successful high-tech merger in history. 

2006 commencement

Fiorina told graduates the essence of leadership involves being the ability to lead through change, in an era when the very nature of business is changing from the physical and the analog to the digital, mobile, virtual, and personal. She described the difficulties of Kodak and the proliferation of fantasy baseball teams to illustrate the ubiquitous effects of technology and the electronic sharing of music to illustrate the power of todays individual consumer.

"Everything I know after 25 years in business and technology tells me that business models that resist technology will ultimately fail, and business models that resist individual human being's desire for more power and control over their own lives ultimately fail as well," said Fiorina. "And everything I know after 25 years tells me that those who do not seek to master change are eventually swallowed by it."

2006 commencement

Fiorina is the author of Tough Choices: A Memoir, which will be published this fall by Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA).

During the commencement ceremony, nearly 1000 business degrees were awarded to undergraduates, MBAs and PhDs. Joining 16 U.S. EMBA graduates were 22 recent graduates of Smith's Beijing EMBA program. The following graduates earned PhDs: Dax Basdeo, Long Jiang, Patrick Maggitti, Likoebe Maraping, Antoaneta Petkova, Holly Slay, Debora Viana Thompson, and Liu Yang. Undergraduates Roger Fox and Anthony Geisler performed the National Anthem. Student speakers included undergraduate Joel Willcher (transcript) and MBA Tawney Bains (transcript).

Download transcript of Fiorina's speech

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.