Berkeley-Columbia Graduating Class Breaks Fundraising Record

In a first for any Haas School program, every student – plus one exchange student – in the graduating class of the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program has made a donation to the Haas Fund.

The 72 students, who graduated Feb. 5 in Wheeler Hall, donated a total of $34,243.33. When combined with matching funds from a new alumni fundraising challenge, the Berkeley-Columbia class of 2011 raised $58,639.55.

The record-breaking 100 percent class-donation rate was the result of the Berkeley-Columbia Program's first graduating gift campaign, a peer-to-peer effort organized by Guadalupe Nickell.

"Our class gift effort was born out of a desire to recognize our class's leadership and camaraderie and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Berkeley-Columbia Program," says Nickell, who is the associate director of philanthropy at The Nature Conservancy. (A 10th anniversary celebration for the program is being planned for the fall.)

Fifteen Berkeley-Columbia students each donated more than $1,000, earning a celebratory graduation lunch with Dean Rich Lyons a day before their commencement ceremony.

The ceremony featured a send-off speech from Joe Duran (pictured), CEO and founding partner of United Capital Financial Partners in Newport Beach, Calif. Duran, who is widely quoted in business news outlets, graduated from the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program in 2004. His firm is one of the fastest growing financial services companies in the country.

The student speaker at commencement, selected by his classmates, was Anuj Ralhan. The class recognized Matthew Cooper with the Student Service Award for his outstanding service to the class and program. Students gave the Cheit Award to Lecturer Peter Goodson, who taught Mergers and Acquisitions.

After commencement, about 300 graduates, family, and friends celebrated their graduation from the 19-month program at a dinner at the Claremont Hotel. In addition to coming out with an MBA from two top business schools, six students saw the birth of their children during the program, including one student who had her baby during the last term.

The graduates–including several who changed careers or jobs during the program–work in a wide range of industries, from aerospace to energy to telecommunications. The class also included a trained opera singer, a yoga instructor, and a professional poker player. Forty percent of the class holds other advanced degrees.

Watch the commencement ceremony on YouTube

See pictures from commencement

Joe Duran, BCEMBA 04