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Leading with Improvisation and Grace

At the 2022 Tuck School Investiture ceremony, U.S. Senator Tina Smith T’84 and class speaker Carl Kreitzberg T’22 called on future leaders to build smart teams and to harness their capacity for grace and improvisation during uncertain times.

As a U.S. Senator for the state of Minnesota, Tina Smith T’84 holds the highest public office among Tuck alumni—a path she could not have predicted when she sat in the audience at her own Tuck investiture.

In fact, Smith explained while delivering Tuck’s Investiture address on June 11, she can attribute many of her personal and professional successes to one key concept: improvisation.

Just as conversational improvisation in a line for barbeque her first week at Tuck led to her 38-year marriage to Archie Smith T’83, career improvisation led her to leave her successful consultancy practice for life in public service.

Smith, who has held her office since 2018, is quick to explain that she didn’t find her purpose overnight. But, she recalled, after letting go of the script she had planned for her career, she was able to tap into her calling—connecting and organizing people to build a better country.

The Class of 2022, she said, has already learned this essential lesson.

Senator Tina Smith T’84, who has had more than 50 bills and provisions signed into law, told graduates, “When you're part of a team, your value isn't just measured by your talent; it’s measured by how you complement the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses of your teammates.”

Be comfortable with building on, not hiding from, the uncertainty and chaos and unexpected opportunities that naturally happen to any of us in our lives. The most satisfying moments in life aren’t scripted.
U.S. Senator Tina Smith T’84

“I cannot imagine a group of people that have had more practice living with uncertainty, a group more adept at improvising than all of you. That's what you have done these last two years,” Smith remarked, noting the trials of attending business school during a global pandemic.

“But the absolutely essential thing,” she said, “is to be comfortable with building on, not hiding from, the uncertainty and chaos and unexpected opportunities that naturally happen to any of us in our lives. The most satisfying moments in life aren’t scripted. The things that we remember that give us joy and a sense of purpose are often the things that we made up on the fly or totally didn't expect.”

For this year’s graduates, Smith’s message resonated deeply. Launching their Tuck careers from the isolation of dorm rooms and homes around the globe, the Class of 2022 found new ways to build the connections and experience the traditions that make a Tuck education so special. As Class President Hannah Sacchini T’22 remarked, being a Tuckie during the pandemic was often like “building the plane while flying,” as students planned and executed events like Winter Carnival without having seen them modeled in their first year.

Class speaker Carl Kreitzberg T’22, a Yale graduate who previously worked in research for the Economist’s predictive analytics consultancy and Harvard Business School, touched on similar themes in his address.

Class speaker Carl Kreitzberg T’22, who is headed to Danaher’s general manager development program after Tuck, shared with his fellow classmates that “the only antidote to unprecedented times is undaunted founders.”

When you all go off and build teams to tackle the world's great challenges, I hope you use grace as your rocket fuel. After all, it gets pretty good mileage by the gallon.
—Carl Kreitzberg T’22

Launching his remarks with a moment of silence for those lost to COVID-19, Kreitzberg urged his classmates not to “run too quickly into the sunshine of a post-COVID world and forget the lessons that we learned from the pandemic MBA.” Instead, he called on his fellow graduates to “be your own founder and surround yourself with similar peers,” arguing that “the only antidote to unprecedented times is undaunted founders.”

Kreitzberg, who is moving to London, Ontario after Tuck to work for a subsidiary of Danaher as a member of the corporation's general manager development program, also asked his classmates to recall the grace with which Tuck students, faculty, and staff came together to support one another over the last two years, from helping one another master Zoom to raising funds for Ukrainian refugees.

“When you all go off and build teams to tackle the world's great challenges, I hope you use grace as your rocket fuel. After all, it gets pretty good mileage by the gallon.”

Smith echoed Kreitzberg’s sentiment, reminding graduates that relationships are often the key to success both business and public service.

“In life and work, the very best times, the most productive times are always when we are surrounded by people that are all pushing in the same direction,” she said.“You've learned that when you're part of a team, your value isn't just measured by your talent; it’s measured by how you complement the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses of your teammates. It's measured by what you accomplish together, not your individual achievement.” And, she added, “to be good teammates won’t just make you more effective, it’s more fun.”

Investiture: Pam Scott

Pamela Scott T’75, the first Black woman to graduate from Tuck, is the recipient of this year’s Tuck Distinguished Achievement Medal.

In addition, this year’s winner of the Tuck Distinguished Achievement Medal was Pamela C. Scott T’75, president and CEO of LVCC, Inc. and an active member of numerous corporate and nonprofit boards. She is also the first Black woman to graduate with a Tuck MBA. View her honorary citation and the 2022 student award recipients.

 

Watch the 2022 Tuck Investiture Ceremony