Susan Wagner to Deliver 2014 Commencement Address at Wellesley

April 11, 2014

Business Pioneer, Founding Director of BlackRock, and One of FORTUNE’s Most Powerful Women Will Address the Class of 2014 on May 30

Susan Wagner portrait

The selection of Wellesley’s commencement speaker is a process driven by students. In keeping with Wellesley tradition, seniors learned first of the selected speaker at the College’s Senior Soiree. Susan L. Wagner, co-founder and director of BlackRock, will address the Class of 2014 and an international audience of their family and friends at Wellesley College’s 136th Commencement Exercises Friday, May 30, at 10:30 a.m.

“We are delighted that Sue Wagner will be our 2014 commencement speaker,” said President H. Kim Bottomly. “Sue’s career at BlackRock exemplifies the important role that the liberal arts play in enabling smart, capable women to make a difference in the world. I know she will offer our students important insights as they prepare to make their mark—in whatever path they choose."

Wagner graduated from Wellesley in 1982 with a B.A. in English and economics, before earning an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago. She was just 26 when she and seven others founded BlackRock. She then went on to orchestrate a $13.5 billion deal between BlackRock and Barclays Global Investors, creating the world’s biggest asset manager.  

Erica Choo ’14, senior class co-president said, “We are so thrilled to have Sue Wagner, a Wellesley alum, as our 2014 commencement speaker. We are confident that she will be an excellent speaker for our class and are looking forward to commencement.”

Wagner is a powerful proof point for the widespread notion that Wellesley graduates succeed in every arena, including fields that are traditionally male-dominated. Called “one of the most powerful women on Wall Street” by The New York Times, members of the Class of 2014 view Wagner as a visionary leader and an inspiring role model. Wagner herself says that she draws inspiration from “so many talented, amazing women from a rich variety of backgrounds” whom she has worked with at Wellesley, on Wall Street, and beyond.

When TIME Magazine asked Wagner what would be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind her, Wagner answered that leaders, both men and women, will require adaptability in the constantly changing political and economic landscape and an adeptness at viewing the world through different cultural lenses. She added, “Women may face an even greater challenge to the extent that some of the business culture and norms encountered are less accustomed to or accepting of women leaders.

As a pioneer who followed her vision and took calculated risks to create a financial company that the world had never seen before, Wagner exemplifies the creative and confident leadership ability that so many Wellesley graduates possess. Indeed, nearly one in five Wellesley alumnae report that they are developing a startup company or that they have started their own company within 10 years of graduation. Within 20 years of graduation, 60 percent report that they hold senior, executive, or CEO level positions.  

Whether this year’s graduates go on to pursue careers in business, politics, education, medicine, the arts, or whatever path they choose, Wagner has sage advice. As she told TIME, “The message I would like to send women is to set their expectations high, be confident in their choices, ask for what they want, and find champions who will support their ambitions.”

About Susan L. Wagner

As noted above, Wagner is a co-founder and director of BlackRock, where she served as vice chairman and a member of the Global Executive and Operating Committees before retiring in 2012. Over the course of her nearly 25 years at the firm, Wagner served as chief operating officer, head of strategy, corporate development, investor relations, marketing and communications, alternative investments and international client businesses. She also served as Global Executive Sponsor of BlackRock’s Women’s Initiative Network, and as a director continues to support it.

Throughout her tenure at BlackRock, Wagner led strategy development and coordinated the firm's strategic initiatives, including BlackRock's mergers with PNC, Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, and Barclays Global Investors, its initial public offering, the acquisitions of HPB Management, SSRM Holdings Inc., and the fund of funds business of Quellos, as well as joint ventures in Japan, China, and India.

Fellow BlackRock founder Larry Fink, chairman and CEO, said, “Sue has spearheaded every critical corporate transaction in our history and played a pivotal role in the genesis of many of the businesses that have become central to our success.” He added that Wagner has been a pioneer, role model, and mentor for both women and men in our firm and across our industry.”

Prior to founding BlackRock, Wagner was a vice president in the Mortgage Finance Group at Lehman Brothers, supporting the investment banking and capital markets activities of mortgage and savings institutions, including development of innovative products. Just two years after graduating from Wellesley, Wagner assisted in writing and editing Conversations with Economists, which was named one of the 10 best business and economics books published that year by both Business Week and Forbes.

Wagner was named among Fortune magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business,” included on similar lists published by the Financial Times and Crain’s New York, and honored by the National Council for Research on Women. She graduated with honors from Wellesley College with a B.A. in English and economics, and earned an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago. Wagner serves on the Boards of BlackRock, DSP BlackRock (India), Wellesley College, and the Hackley School. 


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