University of Southern California

The Enduring Power of Family
As Sidney Rittenberg Gives Keynote, IBEAR Graduates 36th Class
August 15, 2014 • by News at Marshall

With a digital feed hooked up to broadcast the ceremony around the globe, members of the 2014 USC Marshall International Business Education and Research MBA (IBEAR) class lined up in the ballroom of the Ronald Tutor Center ready to receive their diplomas on Friday, July 18.

Watching them were their spouses, friends, alumni and incoming participants. The scene embodied a central if unspoken tenant of the IBEAR MBA: The intense, 12-month program fosters not only deep business skills but also profound connections, both within the class and across the Trojan Family.

With an average of 10 years’ work experience and an average age of 33, IBEAR participants come from all over the world for this full-time accelerated MBA program – often with young families in tow.

Fifty-six participants from 11 countries comprised the 36th IBEAR class. They marched proudly onto the stage to accept diplomas from Marshall Dean James G. Ellis, who told them he was excited to watch their successful and distinguished careers unfold.

IBEAR Director Richard L. Drobnick introduced keynote speaker Sidney Rittenberg, 93, whose own remarkable career became the basis for a book, The Man Who Stayed Behind.

During World War II, Rittenberg went to China as a language specialist for the U.S. Army. He stayed on after the war and eventually became friends and a close adviser to Mao Zedong and other early leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Rittenberg (who had been a member of the Communist Party as a college student in America) joined the CCP and helped the leadership with its English language communication strategies. But he was eventually accused of being a spy and thrown into prison – twice. Of his more than three decades in China, he spent a total of 16 years in solitary confinement, one of those in total darkness. He was released for the last time in 1977 and pardoned. In 1980, he left China to return to the U.S., where he lives today with his wife of 48 years, Yulin.

Despite the difficulties he had faced, Rittenberg remained philosophical. “There is always a bad side to a good thing and a good side to a bad thing,” he told the class.

Rittenberg’s career path illustrated the wisdom of remaining open to opportunity. Fluent in Chinese language and culture, he turned his experiences into a good old-fashioned, lucrative American business. Today, he is a sought-after consultant for companies looking to make inroads in China by leveraging his connections to leaders at the highest echelons of government.

“The process of business is people dealing with people,” he told graduates in his keynote address. “Not with money, not with goods. It’s people. So train to be able to share whatever common interests there are, whatever common values, among the people you’re working with, and you’ll be an outstanding success.”

Ming Lian sat in the audience listening raptly. He had come from Beijing, where he was in general management for the Chinese Academy of Sciences Holding Co., LTD, to join the incoming IBEAR class.

“I hope to transition from management into a higher-level executive role, and I need a global perspective,” he said. “I look forward to making strong connections with my fellow classmates.”

Based on IBEAR’s reputation for cementing life-long bonds among classmates, those connections are sure to be forged, opening doors for Lian and his peers at every stage of their professional and personal lives.

Class speaker Kara Carrier MBA ’14 noted that the program’s famously long work hours and grueling projects had brought her classmates together in a way she never imagined possible. “Despite our different backgrounds, we are now family,” she said.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.