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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Toughest guy on Wall Street' receives Light on the Hill award

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate presented its 2005 Light on the Hill award yesterday to Jamie Dimon (LA '78), current CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

Dimon was honored with a ceremony and a reception in Ballou Hall's Coolidge Room. Attendees received copies of the Apr. 3 issue of Fortune magazine, which featured Dimon on the cover and hailed him as "the toughest guy on Wall Street."

Each year, the TCU Senate chooses an alumnus or alumna "who has carried on the Jumbo spirit past his or her time on the Hill" to receive the Light on the Hill award, senior and TCU Senate President Jeff Katzin said.

The award was established in 1995, and former recipients include actor Hank Azaria, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, eBay entrepreneurs Pierre and Pamela Omidyar, former NBC News President Neal Shapiro, "Late Show With David Letterman" executive producer Rob Burnett and astronaut Rick Hauck.

In his introduction, Katzin welcomed Dimon "back to the Hill" and briefed listeners on his personal background. Dimon received a BA in psychology and economics from Tufts and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. One of the founders of banking giant Citigroup, he later rose to become the CEO of Bank One.

When J.P. Morgan acquired Bank One, Dimon became president and Chief Operating Officer of the company before his promotion to CEO on Dec. 31, 2005.

"[He] truly carried on the spirit of this entrepreneurial university in his endeavors," Katzin said.

Tufts University President Lawrence Bacow spoke next, citing Dimon as "one of our most distinguished and certainly visible [alumni] that we have, literally anywhere in the world."

Together, Katzin and Bacow presented Dimon with the award, in the form of a plaque. Dimon then addressed the students and Tufts community members in attendance on his experiences and lessons from the working world.

"One of the things I've learned is that nothing in your life replaces your work," Dimon said, emphasizing the importance of his family in his life.

Dimon told students in the audience that they were all capable of holding any job they set their sights on; he pointed to President George W. Bush as an example.

"It's the application of your intelligence that really matters," he said.

He advised listeners to continue learning throughout life. "I spend 70 percent of my time learning ... make it a discipline," Dimon said.

One can learn not only from reading, but also from individuals, and particularly from diverse groups, he said.

Dimon also discussed approaches to uncovering the truth. At the end of each week, he told the audience, he lists everything that he heard, but denied, over the course of the week. Accordingly, he can reconsider whether some of these things may be valid.

"It's hard to see the truth because you convince yourself so much of what you believe," he said.

Dimon listed other important qualities in the work world, including passion, work ethic, character and courage. He said that he now believes that EQ - emotional intelligence - is more important than IQ. He pointed to Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln as examples of leaders with character.

Dimon touched on the importance of taking responsibility for one's own work, saying that he is continually disappointed with how many people believe "that it's never their fault." He then talked about the importance of a system of meritocracy - and recounted demotions he had had to make, one of whom was of an employee who had trained him.

"It's not an easy thing to do, but if you don't do it, you have a cronyism," he said. "You've got to create a meritocracy to have real diversity."

He then turned the audience's attention to ethics and choices. "The only thing you have to remember is, it's your choice," Dimon said, and he warned listeners not to justify improper conduct just because others are doing so. For example, he consciously decided against working for a cigarette company because of his personal ethics.

To close his address, Dimon focused on leadership. "It is an honor, a privilege, a responsibility to lead something. It's not an entitlement," he said.

According to Dimon, a leader owes something to the company of which he or she is in charge. Leadership should be about making the company better, not about making money, he said.

"Do the right thing because it's the right thing," Dimon said.