Professor Dr Nils Stieglitz, President of Frankfurt School, welcomed the graduates and their guests and offered his warmest congratulations. In his speech, he urged the graduates to force themselves to explore new territories and to expose themselves to new experiences. “In Medieval times, the blank space on maps was marked with dragons or other monsters, symbolising unknown and unchartered territories. Of course, today we know there were never any dragons found. Let that be a reminder that times of change and unknown territories may be less dangerous than they seem – at least with the right preparation.” He also offered two wishes for the former students – be ambitious and stay in touch.
The representative of the city of Frankfurt, City Councillor Dr Bernd Heidenreich, welcomed the guests in the cradle of German democracy. He stressed Frankfurt’s position as an international economic and financial hub and the increasing success in becoming an important academic centre, thanks to Frankfurt School and other universities in the region.
In his speech, Philip Burchard, CEO of Merz Pharma GmbH & Co. KGaA, told the graduates about his own career path and about the pros and cons of small family-owned companies versus global players. The thing he most enjoyed in his working life was responsibility, because that meant seeing the impact of what you were doing, he told the audience.
Philip Burchard stressed the importance of execution over theory. “It is better to have a medium strategy and excellent execution, than a brilliant strategy and half-hearted execution”, he explained the audience and shared two of his experiences with strategy implementation: One where a CEO launched an impressive new strategy with a big effort at the kick-off but very little follow up. As there was no clear direction and sense of ownership for the employees, the strategic plan failed in the end. The second experience was his own successful implementation of a new strategy as CEO of Merz Pharma six years ago, in order to pave a path to the future for the company. A couple of important patents were running out and the management team decided to focus on two main areas, neurotoxins and aesthetics, instead of having a very broad portfolio. “We paid a lot of attention to change management, communication and dialogue with all employees. Today we are standing on two firm pillars, our implementation worked. It is hard but essential work to create clarity for you and for others. Relentless execution is the only way to success”, he explained.
Before the conferral of degrees by Professor Stieglitz, Professor Dr Michael Grote, Vice President Academic Affairs at Frankfurt School, and the respective programme directors, the best students of each programme received an Award for Academic Excellence.
Vivian Obonya, student of the Part-time MBA, represented the graduates. She talked about her childhood in Kenya as well as speaking to her siblings back home about her experiences abroad and instilling a message of hope and possibility in them. “We all joined Frankfurt School to prepare for the challenges ahead and came away with two types of knowledge: One which will help us earn a living and one that will help us to grow and find our place in society”, she addressed her fellow students before thanking them as well as staff and faculty of Frankfurt School.
Afterwards graduates, families and friends got together for the reception at Paulskirche to celebrate their achievements and their time at Frankfurt School.