Going Once, Going Twice…

How much would you pay for the privilege of launching your career with the help of a living business legend?
HBS will get its answer next week, when HBS students will bid for GE Chairman and CEO John F. Welch, Jr., one of the “prizes” in the 2001 HBS Summer Search Charity Auction. The winning student bidder will provide the CEO with a resume and career goals. He or she will then travel to either New York City or to GE corporate headquarters to be mentored by Mr. Welch over a long lunch.

Said Welch: “When HBS called, I was glad to help. Helping inner-city kids advance academically is the primary focus of GE’s philanthropic and volunteer programs. I’m happy to volunteer my time to support such a good cause.”
All proceeds from the auction benefit Summer Search Boston, a unique non-profit organization that provides resources, mentoring, and full college scholarships to high-potential, low-income high school students in the Boston area. Local students participating in the program come from high schools with college acceptance rates as low as 20%. Nationally, 93% of Summer Search students have been accepted to four-year colleges and 99% of those are expected to graduate. Summer Search alumni include leaders in a diverse range of disciplines-among them, there is even a Rhodes Scholar. The program has grown from 14 students in 1996 to 111 students in 2000.

Andrew Stevenson (OB), whose mother heads Summer Search Boston, says that HBS’s support has played a vital part in that growth. “An HBS Section participating in the Summer Search auction is directly responsible for giving three or maybe even four low-income Boston-area students the chance to make it to college. It is a great way of giving back, of using some of our own good fortune to open doors that would otherwise be closed to others.”

Stevenson says the charity has high hopes for this year’s auction. “It costs Summer Search $3000 to sponsor one young adult. Last year, HBS raised between $75,000 and $100,000 for the program, with one section alone raising over $17,000. This year, there is a chance that we might break that record.”
Cris Chiong, Volunteer Rep for NG, thinks his section might well be the one to do it. Every participating section is responsible for donating the prizes that its members will bid on in the auction, and NG’s students and professors have been particularly generous this year. “Our prizes include a private owners’ tour of a Sonoma winery, a full body massage, authentic Peruvian art, a lobster dinner for two-even squash lessons by one of our formerly top-ranked athletes. You name it, we’ve got it-including the Jack Welch Prize.”

But Section G isn’t relying on Mr. Welch to help it set this year’s section record in the Summer Search Auction. In an extraordinary gesture, Section G has generously opted to open the bidding for the Jack Welch Prize to the entire first-year HBS cohort.

Explained Chiong: “It was tempting to keep the prize just for Section G, but after some discussion we realized that opening the Jack Welch prize to the whole cohort was the right thing to do. It will not only create more buzz for Summer Search but will also ultimately help more kids graduate.”

“There is just one condition-any student wanting to be eligible to bid on Jack Welch will have to donate something, anything, to their own section’s auction.” That condition, thinks NG, will help the HBS student body raise more money this year than any other Summer Search Auction to date.

At least Jack Welch hopes so. Told that dinner with Gwyneth Paltrow, one of last year’s prizes, raised well over $1000 for the charity, Welch remarked wryly, “Don’t tell me how much I get-I can’t compare to Gwyneth Paltrow.”

For once, Welch may be wrong. A mad campus bidding war is expected over the privilege to sit down for an hour or two, resume in hand, with the man who arguably is corporate America’s most successful and admired manager. Over the past 20 years, Welch transformed staid GE into the dynamic Wall Street winner consistently named “World’s Most Admired Company” by Fortune magazine. And, thanks to Welch, GE (“The House that Jack Built”) remains one of the most exclusive destinations for some of the hottest student talent coming out of American business schools today.

Ah, what a sharp HBS student could do with the chance at a private lunch with Jack…

NG’s Summer Search Auction will take place on April 4 in the Morris Common Room. Open bidding for the Jack Welch Prize will begin after 6:30pm. For more information, or to place a silent bid, please contact NG Volunteer Rep Cris Chiong at cchiong@mba2002.hbs.edu.