University of Southern California

Fight On!
Visionary Business Leaders Offer Inspiration to Marshall Graduates at USC's 131st Commencement
May 21, 2014 • by News at Marshall

The record heat in Los Angeles could not wilt the spirits of USC Marshall graduates — many festooned with orchid flower leis in cardinal and gold — poised to begin the next phase of their personal and professional lives. Speeches by three innovative business leaders further galvanized graduates during USC's 131st annual Commencement on the school's University Park Campus on May 16, 2014. Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and Steven A. Ballmer of Microsoft spoke about their career trajectories and the qualities they cultivated to excel. Dean Hallett, who forged an influential finance career at some of Hollywood's biggest studios, meanwhile, offered sage advice on finding a workplace that would bring out their best.

James G. Ellis, dean of the Marshall School of Business, set the tone for the day: “The word ‘commencement’ means beginning. We are witnessing the next chapter for those sitting before us,” said Ellis, addressing the more than 900 members of Marshall’s 2014 undergraduate class at the Galen Center. He then enumerated major global and product developments that occurred over the four years they spent at USC, including the popularity of the all-electric car from Tesla Motors in a nod to their commencement speaker.

Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors and CEO and chief designer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) spoke to the graduates about developing the aptitude to work tirelessly, create and not follow trends and take risks — qualities that fueled his own success.

"Now is the time to take risks," said Musk. “Do something bold. You won't regret it.”

Later that afternoon, undergraduate and graduate candidates heard from Dean Hallett, '80, executive vice president of operations and strategy and CFO for Twentieth Century Fox, during ceremonies for the USC Leventhal School of Accounting. Hallett, current chairman of Marshall Partners — the premier academic support group for USC Marshall — a member of USC's Board of Governors and a member of USC Marshall’s Corporate Advisory Board, spoke about his family’s deep connection to Leventhal, whose first endowed professorship was established in honor of his father.

He also touched on the importance of living authentically, striving for excellence and finding an organization in which graduates could realize their full potential. "There is a power in being genuine," said Hallett. "The quality of your life is directly related to your willingness to be seen and to show up."

Rounding out the day, Dean Ellis addressed Marshall's MBA graduates during an evening ceremony at the Galen Center. After congratulating the class on their record five-peat win of the coveted "Golden Suitcase" in the annual Challenge for Charity (C4C) competition, he encouraged them to help restore people's faith in the business world.

Steven A. Ballmer, recently retired CEO of Microsoft Corporation, followed Ellis and gave a rousing address outlining six attributes for success, including focusing on developing the right ideas, learning how to tell compelling stories and getting into the "weight room of life," where "you prepare, you build new capabilities, you get stronger, you get faster." He also stressed treasuring time, having fun and being "hard core," which he defined as being passionate, tenacious, optimistic and forward-moving.

"What I love about USC is that the spirit of this place is consistent with my values," said Ballmer. "The simple expression, 'Fight On'...it's about being hard core. It's about having the determination to fight on."

Click here for the Commencement gallery.


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.