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A Harvard MBA Tells Classmates: ‘You Kept Me From Drowning’

Source | LinkedIn : By John A. Byrne

It was only a year ago when Marcelle Goncalves Meira sat on the Baker Lawn watching the graduation ceremony at the Harvard Business School. At the time, the 27-year-old Brazilian woman had just completed her first year in Harvard’s MBA program with her husband, Pedro.

“I remember I was worried about taking final exams and anxious about whether I had chosen the best summer job for my envisioned career path,” she recalls. “Little did I know that the news I would receive that same week would drop a bomb in my life. A bomb much more devastating than I could ever have imagined.”

Her husband soon would be diagnosed with an incurable form of stomach cancer. Four months later, on Sept. 21, he would die at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston at the age of 28. Both of them had left consulting jobs in Rio De Janiero on their journey to HBS, she coming from Boston Consulting Group and he from McKinsey & Co. A member of Section D, Pedro quickly gained affection for both his warm and witty personality. With him gone, Meira would then complete the MBA program on her own.

Today (May 25), she bravely stood before her classmates at Harvard Business School’s Class Day and shared her tragic experience and what it meant to be part of a community that would rally around her. She delivered the address exactly as she had prepared it with confidence and poise–never once breaking down.

“On that day, my world, as I knew it, melted below my feet,” she told the graduates and their guests. “We were far away from home, far away from our families in Brazil. All we had here was HBS. And in my journey since that day, I have discovered what makes this community so special. Students, faculty and staff, friends and people I had never met. All of you worked together, tirelessly, to help us through our hardest days.

“You cried but you also bravely laughed with us in that cold, but also very vibrant hospital room, where four months later Pedro passed, knowing how loved he was. And in the many months that followed, you kept me from drowning. By listening, by understanding, by engaging me in every possible way. You led me to rediscover fun and ended up helping me to reinvent a complete new life for me. A new life, full of new dreams, new passions and new revelations about myself and what I am capable of. I could never thank you enough.”

Meira recalled that only a few days before her husband’s death, HBS presented Pedro with his own graduation diploma. “To the astonishment of all our friends who rallied around us that day, he held it and said ‘HBS is a place for development. I learned and accomplished a lot here. There are many things that I still wish I could do, but I know there are many people here that will do it for me.’ And he smiled to his mom, and to me.”

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