Originally inspired by the inventive genius of Thomas Alva Edison, General Electric has become not only one of the largest corporations on the planet, with more than 300,000 employees in 100 countries, but also among the most respected and admired. The company’s success has been built upon generations of shrewd, enlightened and forward-looking leadership. Today that legacy is entrusted to you, and as G.E.’s chairman and chief executive officer since 2001, you have impressively added to it by taking the company in new directions with fresh ideas and innovative approaches.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, you began your business career in sales for Procter & Gamble following your graduation from Dartmouth College. You went on to earn an M.B.A. degree from Harvard University in 1982, and that year joined G.E. From plastics marketing, you steadily advanced through the company’s ranks and in less than two decades were named successor to CEO Jack Welch. His was not only a tough act to follow but the timing was awful: 9-11 occurred only days later, casting a pall over the entire nation and its business community.
Nonetheless, with determination, you immediately set a new strategic direction for G.E., putting it on a path of organic growth. Seeing new technology and innovation as vital to G.E.’s future, you invested in research and development. You also placed great emphasis on environmental technology and energy efficiency. As a vocal advocate of eco-friendly business practices such as developing cleaner energy sources and curtailing emissions, you hoped to see business take the lead in efforts to make the planet more habitable. Despite daunting challenges posed by a sluggish economy in recent years, you hold firmly to your conviction that innovation and attendant risk-taking are keys to business success, and at G.E., with the world’s welfare also in mind, you continue steadfastly to act upon it.
Jeffrey R. Immelt, acting upon the authority of the Board of Trustees, I am pleased to confer on you, on the occasion of your daughter Sarah’s graduation, the degree of Doctor of Laws of Hamilton College, admitting you to all of its rights and privileges. In token whereof, we present you with this diploma and invest you with this hood.
Joan Hinde Stewart
May 23, 2010