Babson College Announces Accomplished Entrepreneurs as 2024 Commencement Speakers | News Direct

Babson College Announces Accomplished Entrepreneurs as 2024 Commencement Speakers

News release by Babson College

facebook icon linkedin icon twitter icon pinterest icon email icon Wellesley, Massachusetts | March 04, 2024 11:29 AM Eastern Standard Time

Arthur M. Blank ’63, H’98, co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United FC, will deliver the undergraduate Commencement address


Father-daughter entrepreneurs Eric Johnson ’72, P’08, Chairman of Baldwin Richardson Foods, and Erin Tolefree, President and CEO of Baldwin Richardson Foods, will deliver Babson’s first joint Commencement address during the graduate ceremony


Babson College will honor the extraordinary achievements of the Class of 2024 on Saturday, May 11 on the Wellesley campus in its 105th undergraduate and 72nd graduate Commencement ceremonies. Approximately 700 undergraduate students and 650 graduate students will receive their degrees.


Arthur M. Blank, ’63, H’98, co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United FC, will serve as this year’s undergraduate Commencement speaker. Eric Johnson ’72, P’08, Chairman of Baldwin Richardson Foods and Babson Trustee, and his daughter, Erin Tolefree, President and CEO of Baldwin Richardson Foods, will make history as Babson’s first joint Commencement speakers in the Graduate ceremony.


Blank has had a transformative impact on entrepreneurship education in the Babson community. In 2019, a $50 million gift by Blank and The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation created The Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership, a first-of-its-kind hub that empowers the Babson College community to lead change, solve global problems, and create sustainable value across business and society. This year marks the graduation of the inaugural cohort of the Arthur M. Blank Leadership Scholars, a program launched with the creation of the Blank School.


A longtime Babson supporter, Blank’s generosity and belief in the power of a values-driven entrepreneurial mindset helped launch The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this fall. The Blank Center promotes the exchange of innovative ideas that shape the future of entrepreneurship through research and thought leadership initiatives.


Johnson has long been a passionate supporter of Babson and a believer in the power of entrepreneurship. As a student, he founded Babson’s Black Student Union (BSU) in 1970, and the BSU’s living space, the Johnson House, is named in his honor. His and his family’s ongoing generosity has led to the establishment of vital campus resources like the Baldwin Richardson Foods Term Chair, the Johnson Family Term Chair, and the Baldwin Richardson Foods Scholars Programs.


Tolefree has spent much of her professional career at Baldwin Richardson Foods, continuing her family’s multi-generational commitment to family entrepreneurship. She assumed the role of Baldwin Richardson Foods’ President in 2020 and was named CEO in 2023. Her people-first leadership and management skills helped the company navigate significant supply chain challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her strong leadership has helped the company achieve substantial growth and expansion of a new state-of-the-art production line.


“Arthur, Eric, and Erin are exemplary entrepreneurial leaders. It is an honor to have such distinguished leaders deliver our undergraduate and graduate Commencement addresses, and we are looking forward to welcoming our first joint speakers to the podium,” said President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, Ph.D. “Bringing inspiring leaders like these to campus ensures that Babson continues to be at the forefront of entrepreneurial education and thought leadership.”


Babson also will award four honorary degrees during the ceremonies. Kerry Murphy Healey, Babson’s 13th president and former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the undergraduate ceremony. During her presidency, Healey led efforts to increase Babson’s international profile, championed women entrepreneurs, and oversaw a substantial $200 million renewal of Babson’s Wellesley campus.


Harry Susilo P’96, G’24 ’26, founder and chairman of the Sekar Group, also will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the undergraduate ceremony. Susilo founded the Sekar Group of Companies, an Indonesia-based international conglomerate focusing on food production, property, and mining, in 1966. He is a member of Babson’s Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs® and both a parent of Babson alumna and a grandparent of members of the class of 2024 and 2026.


In addition to delivering the Commencement address, Johnson and Tolefree each will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during the graduate ceremonies.


To learn more about Babson’s undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremonies, visit the Babson 2024 Commencement website.


About Babson College

Babson College prepares and empowers entrepreneurial leaders who create, grow, and steward sustainable economic and social value everywhere. We shape the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge, skills, and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in organizations of all types and sizes. An international leader in entrepreneurship education recognized globally by U.S. News & World Report, our undergraduate, graduate, executive programs, and partnership opportunities are tailored to the needs of our world.


Danielle Perry  
AVP, Communications and Marketing Strategy


Babson CollegeBaldwin Richardson FoodsArthur M. BlankEric JohnsonErin TolefreeCommencement CeremoniesCommencement Speakers