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Social Impact Nonprofit Founder to Speak at Harvard Business School Class Day

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Harvard Business School (HBS) today announced that alumnus Tom Tierney, cofounder and chairman of the Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit organization that helps social sector leaders and organizations accelerate their social impact, will be the keynote speaker for the school’s annual pre-commencement Class Day. Planned and conducted by second-year MBA students, Class Day will be held on HBS’s Baker Lawn on May 25th, the day before Harvard University Commencement exercises.

Tierney’s selection as Class Day keynote speaker comes amid rising interest in social impact among MBA students worldwide, with growing numbers of students looking to enter the social impact field immediately upon graduation. 

Harvard Business School Class Day
Bridgespan Group Co-Founder Tom Tierney
Photo courtesy of Harvard Business School

Tierney, for his part, came to social impact later in his career. He graduated from HBS with distinction in 1980 after studying economics at the University of California at Davis and serving as a field engineer for Bechtel International in North Africa. From HBS he went into consulting—joining management consulting firm Bain & Co. Promoted to partner after just three years, he served as managing director of Bain’s San Francisco office from 1987 to 1992 before becoming the firm’s president and first worldwide managing director. He is credited with growing the company’s revenue by a factor of six while significantly expanding its international operations.

In 1999, Tierney and several other Bain partners cofounded the Bridgespan Group, and the following year he stepped down from his role as CEO of Bain to focus on his work with Bridgespan. Bridgespan provides strategy consulting, leadership development and philanthropy advising to mission-driven organizations and philanthropists to help them scale impact and increase the effectiveness of their philanthropic efforts. It works with organizations focused on some of the greatest social impact challenges facing the world today, including breaking cycles of intergenerational poverty, providing effective safety nets, and ensuring core human and civil rights.

Outside of his work with Bridgespan, Tierney also serves on the boards of eBay, the Nature Conservancy and the Hoover Institute, and from 2014 to 2015 served as the West Point Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy. He has remained active at HBS as well, chairing the advisory board of the school’s Social Enterprise Initiative.

Past HBS Class Day keynote speakers—also all HBS alumni—have included Scott Cook, cofounder of Intuit, Khan Academy Founder Salman Khan, and Ann Moore, former chairperson and CEO of Time.

In addition to Tierney’s keynote address, this year’s HBS Class Day ceremony will also include a welcome from the co-presidents of the MBA Class of 2016, the presentation of faculty teaching awards and a student address. This year’s student speaker has yet to be announced.