The Ellerin Award at HBS

What a great time to be in Cambridge, MA - my run along the Charles in such beautiful weather was a a treat.  I was there to attend the annual HBS Healthcare Alumni Association Conference and to present the Ellerin Award to Fred Hassan. Hard to believe that it was 16 years ago that we got HBSHAA off the ground. It was a fun Sweet 16!

Fred is an extraordinary leader who has served as Chairman of Bausch & Lomb and CEO of both Schering-Plough and Pharmacia; he is currently doing deals at Warburg Pincus. Fred has made a difference through his many professional accomplishments but even more so through his integrity, passion, vision and values. Probably the greatest testament to his personal character is that his son and daughter traveled to attend the ceremony from Florida. His son Dan gave a warm, often hilarious, tribute. As a parent myself, I would consider that the ultimate achievement.

Here's what I said during my remarks:

Good evening. I am Bunny Ellerin, a founder of the HBS Healthcare Alumni Association. It’s hard to believe but it was almost exactly 16 years ago - November 10, 1999 – that we held our very first event. Many in the room tonight were there but for those who weren’t and for those who don’t know the history of this org, I want to reflect a bit. I think it will surprise you because today healthcare matters at HBS. But it wasn’t always that way.

When I graduated in 1995, healthcare was simply not on the agenda. There was one professor teaching a class, the healthcare student club had maybe 15 members, and companies and alumni were not coming to campus to recruit like they were in other industries.

In order to find a job, I had to mine the HBS alumni database. That's where I discovered that there were thousands of alumni involved in all areas of healthcare – pharma, biotech, healthcare delivery, medical technology, hospitals, insurance, even practicing doctors – the MD/MBAs. Plus we had major players represented like Fred Hassan, Kent Thiry, Ginger Graham, Bill George. Why wasn’t healthcare more important to HBS – and why weren’t we connected?

So being young and fearless, I took it upon myself to contact Alumni Affairs and suggest the idea of an alumni assn dedicated to healthcare. And guess what? They laughed. Who would join this thing? Besides we don’t do industry verticals they said. Well I cajoled and persevered and finally got them to let me send out a survey. This was 1997 – the beginning of email - I literally pasted hundreds of email addresses in the TO Line of AOL and hit send. And the response floored me. Within a few days I had hundreds of surveys in my inbox, many with long personal notes. The floodgates had opened. Finally someone was paying attention to the many, many alumni who were playing an important role shaping a critical part of our economy.

From there we assembled a dream team to get this org off the ground –I want to acknowledge those who did so much of the heavy lifting in the early years Bob DeNoble, Emily Levy, Dave Terry, Ken Selzer, Wolfgang Kleitmann, Anula Jayasuriya, David Green.

We held events around the country, built up a global membership 500+that included every sector of healthcare, and launched this annual conference. I served as president until 2005, when I decided it was time to see if this thing had legs. First, I was tired. But second, I realized that if this was a long-term play, then it had to go beyond me. Looking back at the note I wrote to members I said, “This association brings together an incredible group of talented people. Together we have created something of lasting value. What the future holds is up to all of you.”

And I stand here today to say that the future is bright. I could not be more proud of how far this organization has come. As I look around at this large assembly of healthcare leaders and take note of the incredible agenda that Jon and Michael put together, I am honored to be part of this esteemed group.

I want to recognize the past presidents who have also steered the ship: Bob DeNoble, Wolfgang Kletimann, David Greenand now Michael and Jon. These two have taken the organization to a new level. The annual conference is a must-attend event, there’s a full-time Executive Director – kudos to Kathy – and they have assembled a fantastic Board. Please join me in thanking Michael and Jon.

That brings me to the Alumni Achievement Award. I mentioned earlier HBS has produced many of the most talented leaders in the healthcare industry. The award was created to recognize that. Tonight’s recipient Fred Hassan is a leader who has made a difference in our industry through his immense professional accomplishments but even more important through his integrity, passion, vision and values. Probably the greatest testament to his personal character is that his son and daughter are here to participate in this honor. As a parent myself, I would consider that the ultimate achievement.

With that please let me present Daniel Hassan, who will introduce his father. Thank you!