Secretary Elaine Chao


God and man at Harvard Business School

THE HARVARD BUSINESS School class of ‘79, which gathered recently for its 25th reunion and invited FORTUNE along, is as star-studded as B-school classes come. It has eBay’s Meg Whitman, Enron’s Jeff Skilling; John Thain, the new CEO of the New York Stock Exchange; and Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Labor. Other alums: the inventor of the computer spreadsheet, the screenwriter of Saving Private Ryan, and the CEOs or presidents of PepsiCo, Staples, and MTV.

Alas, Whitman and Skilling were no-shows. But among the capitalist overachievers who did attend, the mood was surprisingly anticompetitive—the bonfire of the vanities calmed to a campfire. Conversations ran to children, hobbies, and even religion. “It was mellow,” said Secretary Chao. “The one-upmanship peaked at the ten-year,” said Amar Bhide, now a professor at Columbia Business School.

The most talked-about careers were the alternative ones. David Gaylin abandoned his work in management consulting to run symphony orchestras. Read Boles, a Houston turnaround specialist, has become a micro-lender, doling out funds in $1,000 increments to inner-city entrepreneurs. And it was thanks to Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of Gibson guitars, that Ike Turner showed up to play a raucous party on Friday evening.

Read More.