Alumna Carleton "Carly" S. Fiorina, president and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., will speak at MIT's Commencement ceremony on Friday, June 2. The Sloan School graduate has been named the most powerful woman in corporate America by Fortune magazine two years in a row.
Ms. Fiorina last year took over the helm of Hewlett-Packard (HP), the second-largest computer maker in the world. Four years ago, she spearheaded Lucent's initial public offering and subsequent spinoff from AT&T, one of the largest and most successful IPOs on record. She then became president of Lucent's global service group.
"Leadership is a matter of vision, wisdom, organization, stamina and charisma -- and Carly Fiorina brings all this and more to her role as CEO of Hewlett-Packard," said President Charles M. Vest in announcing that Ms. Fiorina will be the speaker at the Institute's graduation ceremony.
"We look to our Commencement speakers not only to address the important issues, opportunities and responsibilities that our graduates will face, but to serve as models of the kind of leaders we hope they will become. I am delighted that Carly has accepted our invitation and look forward to hearing her remarks to our graduates and families," he said.
Hugo Barra, a senior in electrical engineering and computer science and president of the senior class, said, "The timing of Ms. Fiorina's MIT address is ideal, as so many of us are in the process of filtering through the uncertainty of so many life and career choices in this so-called 'new economy.' Her fabulous wisdom as an industry captain will be very well received."
Ms. Fiorina joins a very eclectic group of Commencement speakers at the Institute in recent years, comprising national and world leaders and MIT graduates who are leaders of industry, research and even radio comedy.
Tom and Ray Magliozzi -- MIT alumni better known as Click and Clack of Car Talk, their National Public Radio program -- spoke last year. President Clinton spoke at the 1998 Commencement, along with the world-renowned AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho, who received the MD in 1978 from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. In 1997 Kofi Annan (SM 1972), secretary general of the United Nations, gave the Commencement address; Vice President Al Gore did so in 1996.
Ms. Fiorina is the second Hewlett-Packard executive to be MIT's Commencement speaker. Company cofounder William R. Hewlett, then vice chairman of the board of directors, spoke in 1986.
Ms. Fiorina will be the fourth woman to speak at an MIT Commencement exercise, following Professor Hanna Gray, former president of the University of Chicago (1995); Shirley Chisholm, former New York congresswoman (1984); and Katharine Graham, chairman and CEO of the Washington Post Co. (1982).
"The Commencement Committee is delighted that Carly Fiorina will address the first Commencement of the new millennium," said Professor Eric Grimson, the Bernard Gordon Professor of Medical Engineering, chair of this year's Commencement Committee. "Ms. Fiorina's vision that Hewlett-Packard's future be defined by inventiveness should resonate with our graduates, as will her vision of the role of education in building a digital bridge to connect all members of our society."
In 1980, Ms. Fiorina joined AT&T as an account representative. Ten years later, she was the first woman officer at the company's equipment division, Network Systems (later known as Lucent). In 1996 she spearheaded Lucent's IPO and spinoff and was subsequently named president of the company's global service's group, which grew rapidly under her leadership. She joined HP as president and CEO in 1999.
She earned a bachelor's degree in medieval history and philosophy from Stanford University in 1976, attended a year of law school, then received the MBA from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1980. She was a Sloan Fellow and earned the SM from that program in 1989.
"It's exciting to have Ms. Fiorina, a former graduate student at MIT, provide her perspectives at Commencement," said Luis Ortiz, a graduate student in materials science and engineering, and president of the Graduate Student Council. "[Her] background with industry leaders like AT&T, Lucent and HP give her insights that will be valuable for graduating students, as businesses such as these are exactly where we are headed. I am extremely happy with the selection and look forward to meeting Ms. Fiorina."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 15, 2000.