June 15--PALO ALTO -- Nike co-founder and board chairman Phil Knight on Saturday delivered the Address to the Graduating Class at the Diploma Award Ceremony for the Stanford Graduate School of Business in the Frost Amphitheater.
Knight, who graduated from the University of Oregon in 1959, earned his Stanford MBA in 1962. The graduate school has a tradition of inviting an alum to return to deliver the graduating class address. The Knight Management Center, where the graduate school is housed, is named for Knight who, along with wife Penny Knight, donated $105 million toward its construction. The campus also has another building named for Knight.
This is the first of three parts of a transcription of a recording of Knight's 25-minute speech that will be published on OregonLive. This, the first part, focused on the roots of his entrepreneurial venture; the second, on company growth and a regulatory tussle with the federal government in which Nike had key assists from Stanford alumni; and the third, on life lessons.
I'm sorry (former Stanford Graduate School of Business Dean) Arjay Miller could not be here today. He would be the one person in this gathering who would refer to me as "that young man."
I graduated from this school in 1962, more than a half a century ago. It was a time when jet travel was just beginning, with the introduction of the Boeing 707. There was no Silicon Valley per se. There were no fax machines. There was no Internet. There were no cell phones, no iPads. The latest technological development was the color TV. There was no such thing as venture capital. The number one company in the world was General Motors. The biggest firm on Wall Street was Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith. Commercial banks were not allowed to engage in investment banking activities. And there was no birth control pill. (laughter)
There is absolutely nothing in my journey that has any specific application for what awaits you. In so many ways, today's talk could be called, "Return of the Dinosaur." (laughter)
Why, therefore -- why, before this, the greatest class to ever graduate from the best business school on the planet (cheers, applause) why did the Dean ask me to be here? And my answer is, "I don't really know." (laughter) But I suppose there might be some hope that parts of my journey might be relevant in attitude and philosophy. I hope so.
But why I -- a person who intensely dislikes public speaking -- chose to accept? It's perfectly clear to me. The answer is: It is personal. For me, it is a rounding of the circle. There is part of me who was born here.
I had come here, at age 22, a bit lost. For me, an extrovert was a person who stared at other people's shoes. (laughter) Shy, insecure, unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. Two years later I left, much better educated. I was still shy and insecure but I knew what I wanted to do, if only I could pull it off. And that was to bring to life the business plan I had written in Frank Shallenberger's entrepreneurship class.
So I returned just a few years after my own graduation to this place, this magical place that is an extended part of me. I returned to say thank you, here, where all the aspiration began.
The summer between my first and second year, I had a long, existential debate with myself, finally concluding that I would, before going to the work for 40 years, take one year to go around the world -- looking for education, for enlightenment, looking for myself.
And then in the winter term of my second year, I took that entrepreneurship class, whose road led to Japan.
So after putting in my required two weeks in the U.S. Army summer training camp at Fort Ord, selling my car, and saying bon voyage to parents and my sisters, I set out with Gary Carter when we were both living in Crothers Hall.
In September we were ready to go. We drove down El Camino to a liquor store which was the ticketing agent for Standard Airways, a discount charter airline. For $80 we got on a Convair -- a prop, of course. Eight hours to Hawaii. We wou