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JUN 5, 2006

Notes from the Boston Trip No. 2—Harvard Business School 15th Anniversary Reunion

By Yoshito Hori

The next morning I was awakened by my eldest son at five. He apparently woke up early due to jet-lag. I heard the baby’s voice from the room next door. The thought crossed my mind that if I left these two awake in the room, they would awake the rest of the children as well, so I put on my sneakers and took the two children to the park.

Our hotel was next to Kennedy Park on the banks of the River Charles. In one hand I had the bat and Frisbee I had bought the previous night, and with the other hand was pushing the baby stroller toward the green park along the banks of the river. The lawns were moist with the morning dew. I explained to my nine-year-old son that all parks in America have grassy areas like this. I first asked him whether he knows what made the grass moist, and then explained him how dew is formed.

He was really ready to play and listened absentmindedly to my explanation as he started tossing the frisbee. Cutting my explanation short, I started to toss the frisbee with my son and had a good time. After a while we picked up the bat and ball and played baseball.

After about half an hour, we decided to take a walk along the riverbank. The library of HBS rose up impressively on the other side of the river. I told my son that I had gone to graduate school there, and then casually mentioned to him that I wanted him to do the same some day, if it worked out. I also told him he would have to be able to speak English and study hard if he wanted to go there.

Kids tend to be a more receptive in one-to-one talks like this. “Okay,” he said, but who knows what the future really holds. Nevertheless, since it was my idea to take him out of school, I’d feel bad if he wasn’t at least a little intrigued about studying there.

About 50 ducks were along the river bank. They didn’t show the slightest sign of running away as we approached. My infant son stretched his hand out of the stroller, as if trying to talk with the ducks. The children and the ducks blended into the dawn scenery along the river; it was very picturesque.

We returned to the hotel and ate breakfast with the rest of the family. I then set out on my own to take part in the HBS Alumni Association’s Board of Directors meeting across the river. During the breaks, I needed to get in touch with some investors. This evening, Japan time, which was June 2, was the scheduled closing date for the preliminary application to invest in Globis Fund No. 3. I was a little concerned about whether all the investor agreements had been signed and delivered to us.

Later that evening, before going out for dinner, I received a call from the legal office in New York informing me that the signed agreements had been sent from all of the investors as planned. I was so happy I did a little dance. With this first closing, GLOBIS could now carry out new investment.

Dinner that night with my family became a celebration, which I marked by opening a bottle of champagne. I celebrated with my wife and my mother-in-law. It started to rain as we finished dinner, so we hurried back to the hotel.

The next morning it was my second son who woke me up. A glance out of the window revealed that it had stopped raining. Just like yesterday, I headed to Kennedy Park, this time with my second son, and we played with the frisbee and baseball. With lots of children you have to make sure to be fair and play with all of them. For me it was a repeat of yesterday and a little boring, but for my son it was a first. As I had done the previous day, I pointed out the HBS library to my son and mentioned that I wanted him to study there. And once again, the ducks were there to welcome us.

The 15th reunion was scheduled to start this morning. Harvard alumni reunions are, in general, held from Thursday evening until Sunday morning, for a total of three nights and four days. The fifth reunion, and all five-year anniversaries up to the 25th, and 50th alumni reunions, were all being held at the same time. People had come from all over the world to participate in these reunions. Each class followed the same program, as detailed below.

Thursday evening: Reception

Friday morning: Dean’s speech, followed by faculty presentations, and then dinner with section mates in the evening.

Saturday morning: Faculty presentations. From noon, panel discussions, by graduating year. In the evening, a Gala Party for each year.

Sunday: Farewell brunch

This is the standard program.

On Friday morning, after I had contacted the investors and the law office regarding the closing of fund applications, my family and I headed for HBS. There was a kids program for the little ones. I saw this is a good chance for them to interact with other cultures, and so I took them along.

I parted from my family at the kids tent and went to the faculty presentation. I always look forward to these lectures by professors. A group of highly respected professors spoke, such as Michael Porter, author of “Competitive Strategy,” Clayton Christensen, author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” and Josh Lerner, author of “Venture Capital and Private Equity,” gave presentations about the latest research, interspersed with humor. This was sheer academic extravagance to the utmost. 

The first session I attended was a lecture by Professor William Sahlman on “The Growth of Entrepreneurs.”

The second session was a lecture by Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter about research on “Organizations That Continually Win, Organizations That Continually Lose.” This was really interesting. She presented the results of study about why some organizations and teams continue to win, while others always seem to lose. How is it possible for organizations that constantly lose to turn themselves around and start winning? And what is necessary for such a turnaround? She backed up these points with abundant examples.

Keywords that stuck in my mind included cooperativeness, discipline, a culture of steady effort, and never giving up.

Luncheon was served inside tents, according to year. I decided to have lunch with my children. Every time one of my good old classmates came in I stood up and greeted them.

For the third session, which took place in the afternoon, I attended a lecture by Professor Warren McFarlan and another professor.

As I listened to these eminent professors, I was envisioning the future Graduate School of Management, Globis University. There was much to do before GLOBIS could catch up with Harvard, but it was certainly worth doing. I resolved to keep moving forward, one step at a time.

Come to think of it, yesterday morning my eldest son had said, “I will go to university at either Harvard or Stanford, but for postgraduate school I’ll go to GLOBIS.” I don’t really think he had fully appreciated just how difficult it would be to get into Harvard and Stanford, and I don’t know how much he understands about GLOBIS. In any event, it seems the children somehow understood in their own way that I was running with all my might to operate the Graduate School of Management, Globis University.

I swore in my heart to do everything possible, as a father and the dean, to establish a college that my children would choose to attend.

June 5, 2006
In the USA
Yoshito Hori