Visit President Kerry Healey in her office on the third floor of Horn Library, and one of the first things you’ll notice are the pictures of rocks.
Specifically, they are Roger Babson’s boulders. Babson was a man brimming with notions and ideas, and the boulders were something he dreamed up during the Great Depression. Wanting to offer the dignity of work to unemployed stonemasons in his hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Babson instructed them to carve inspirational sayings into boulders that dotted the abandoned colonial settlement of Dogtown Common.
Photographs of those boulders, along with their accompanying mottos for living, hang on the walls of Healey’s office. The words on the boulders seem to call out to visitors: Courage. Kindness. Study. Truth. Integrity.
When asked what words she would carve into rock like Roger Babson, Healey doesn’t hesitate giving an answer. “Lead with humility,” she says. Since the summer of 2013, Healey has served as Babson’s president, and that message of humility is something she takes to heart. “I think that much wisdom comes from disappointments and failures,” she says. “In each challenge, one can find insights, inspirations, and new opportunity.”
As Babson’s 13th president and the first woman to hold the position, Healey has overseen many successes during her tenure, including new programs, new campus construction, and a new energy and enthusiasm for giving in the alumni community. But, as she prepares to step down in just a few months, Healey always carries that humility with her. “Leading a college is a collaborative activity,” she says. “You can’t approach it with enough humility and openness to other perspectives. That allows you to serve others more ably and to amplify the diverse talents around you.”
Links in a Chain
The end of a presidency is a natural time to take stock, to look back. That’s especially so in 2019, as the College celebrates its Centennial.
Such a moment of reflection happened on a Friday night in February. Healey found herself surrounded by history as Babson welcomed back all its living presidents for an event billed as a fireside chat. They gathered on stage in the Sorenson Center for the Arts: Ralph Sorenson, H’85, William Dill, H’91, Leo Higdon Jr., H’07, Brian Barefoot, ’66, H’09, P’01, and Leonard Schlesinger, H’14. (William Glavin, H’99, was unable to attend due to the recent death of his wife, Cecily, H’97.)
Babson College’s Past Presidents »
With Healey serving as moderator, her predecessors reflected on the challenges they faced, the triumphs they saw, and the times that shaped the institution they led. Each president’s answers led to the next president’s, one link in a chain to another, the entire stage taking in the sweep of decades. “It was wonderful to see how the presidents fed into each other’s narratives,” Healey says. “The themes and passions of each president were built upon by the next president.”
That was particularly true when discussing entrepreneurship. On the far side of the stage sat Sorenson, who first focused Babson on entrepreneurship in the late 1970s. Each president, in turn, added to the framework he laid out. “I now have the great honor to be the person who takes that expertise into Babson’s next century,” says Healey.
When Healey first stepped on Babson’s campus, the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts admits, “I had a great deal to learn about what it means to be part of a college community.” She also had a lot to learn about Babson. “I never could have imagined when I saw this small college in Wellesley that it has an alumni footprint in 119 countries around the world,” she says.
But, now, nearly six years into her term as president, she is like the others on the stage, one more leader building onto a strong foundation. When she thinks about how she added to Babson’s history of entrepreneurial education, Healey points to the Institute for Family Entrepreneurship. Launched in 2018, the institute is a hub dedicated to education, research, and programming for students and families looking to carry on a legacy of entrepreneurship.
Considering that family businesses create more than 70 percent of the world’s GDP, Healey sees the institute as an opportunity for the College to expand its reach and impact. “I can see the College becoming the global leader for family business in its second century,” she says. “There is no other business school as uniquely focused on making sure there is an entrepreneur in every generation of a family business.”
Achievements on Campus and Beyond
Launching the institute, however, is just one of Healey’s accomplishments. Her presidency has helped shape many aspects of the Babson community, both in Wellesley and beyond.
There’s diversity, for instance. Healey’s tenure has seen increased racial, ethnic, and socio-economic diversity on campus among students, as well as the first majority female undergraduate class in Babson’s history. Early in her presidency, she established the Global Scholars Program, the first full-tuition scholarships at the College for international students.
“I am probably the most proud of the Global Scholars Program,” she says. “Their contribution on campus has been profound. They have participated in so many activities. They have started so many programs. They have enriched discussions in the classrooms. And, they will go back to their home countries and have significant positive impact.”
Increasing alumni involvement is another hallmark of the Healey years. When she began at Babson, the alumni giving participation rate was just 13 percent. The rate is now more than 30 percent, and donations from international alumni have increased 500 percent during that time. In 2018, the College had its best fundraising year ever, pulling in $67 million. “That was a wonderful milestone to reach,” Healey says.
Healey gives a lot of praise to the development, events management, and Alumni and Friends Network staffs for this increased participation. She also gives credit to Babson Connect: Worldwide, a global entrepreneurship summit that she founded to engage with the Babson community around the world. First held in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2015, the annual event has taken place in Dubai, Bangkok, and Madrid. In honor of Babson’s Centennial, this year’s event will occur in Wellesley and Boston in September.
Another Healey accomplishment can be viewed by taking a walk around Babson’s campus. In recent years, she has overseen a number of construction projects that have transformed the look of campus: Park Manor West, the new Roger’s Pub & Grille, the Weissman Foundry, and the soon-to-be-completed Babson Recreation and Athletics Complex and the Babson Commons at Horn Library. “I am very excited to see College Drive coming to life in the way it is,” says Healey, who applauds Babson’s facilities department. “I am in awe that they are able to carry all this off on budget and on time. It takes a lot of effort and determination to make that happen.”
Part of the campus transformation has been the moving of the Babson Globe to a place of prominence. Instead of being tucked away behind Coleman Hall, it’s now in a new park on College Drive that also will include flags from the home countries of all current Babson students, a statue of Roger Babson, and markers telling the College’s history. Healey sees the recently repainted globe and the display of flags as a symbol of what the College stands for. “It tells people that we are a global campus,” she says. “We think business happens everywhere, that entrepreneurs are found everywhere.”
Thanks to the contributions of more than 100 donors, the new park will be named Kerry Murphy Healey Park. “I was deeply touched,” Healey says.
Looking to the Future
Other accomplishments include the expanding of the College’s presence in Boston, Miami, and Dubai, and the providing of free, online entrepreneurship courses to more than 200,000 students hailing from nearly every country. But, sitting in her office, surrounded by Roger Babson’s boulders and a view of the Babson Commons construction out her window, Healey would rather talk about the College’s future.
She’s excited by the choice of Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD, to be the College’s next president. “He has a great love of Babson and a knowledge of the community that spans decades,” she says. She’s curious how he will build on the College’s mission, just as she and all the ex-presidents did before him. “I’m sure President Spinelli will have a great degree to offer in that regard,” she says.
Healey believes the future looks vibrant for Babson. “I’m excited to see where Babson goes now, over the next 10 or 20 years,” she says. “I strongly believe the College is positioned for success. The world needs what Babson is offering. The students that are drawn here are among the most talented in the world.”
As she prepares to join the ranks of former presidents, Healey says those students will be what she misses most about her time at Babson. “They have so much hope for the future,” she says. “They are so self-motivated and optimistic. It is wonderful to be around young people who have so much confidence and self-reliance.”
Looking ahead to her own future plans, Healey says she is keeping her options open but is looking forward to the publication of her forthcoming book, The Politics of Dignity: An Agenda to Unite America’s Moderate Majority. It focuses on how human dignity can guide public policy, a timely topic for these divisive times. “I believe that our failure to honor each other’s dignity in our policies and rhetoric has driven our country apart,” she says. “I believe the path toward national renewal lies in embracing policies that advance our human dignity.”
Before Healey steps down, however, she has one last special trip to make, one that could involve Spinelli as well. While she is obviously a big fan of Roger Babson’s boulders, Healey admits she has never seen them in person. “I will plan a trip before I depart Babson,” she says. “Maybe, I’ll take Steve with me.”