Late nights and jelly beans

In keeping with Wharton tradition, graduating senior Aaron Karo (W’01) delivered the address at the Wharton Undergraduate and Evening Division degree ceremony May 20. Here are excerpts from his look back across four years at Penn:

Any discussion of the Wharton experience must, of course, begin with Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, or “Steiny-D” as it is affectionately called by its bleary-eyed inhabitants. Steiny-D is the place where we, the world’s future business leaders, learned the basics of finance, accounting and marketing.

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to learn all these basics during daylight hours, and therefore Steiny-D became the late-night haven for any Whartonite wishing to figure out the difference between a perpetuity and an annuity. Thus, the Class of 2001 slept in Steiny-D, in the lounges and in the hallways. One day, as I walked past Huntsman Hall, the new Wharton building currently being constructed, I overheard a fellow Whartonite remark, “Gee, I sure hope they’re putting some beds in there.”

Mysteries of printing and recruiting

But for all our efforts and late nights, the facilities within Steiny-D still teased us. For pressing “print” on one of the lab computers does not mean the confidential business plan you worked on all night will simply appear on the inkjet next to you, but rather it may come out two hours later on any one of the 10 printers in the building or even across the street in Vance Hall.

And so even as our class spent the better part of our formative years in this unforgiving building, we accepted and cherished it. Those late nights in Steiny-D are what brought our class together. Eating party mix from a vending machine in the middle of the night while you’re knee-deep in discount rates produces a sort of camaraderie that just cannot be found elsewhere.

Of course, all-nighters in Steiny-D were not only thing that our class had to overcome. Difficulties came at us from all angles. I remember promising myself early in my Wharton career that I would not succumb to the pitfalls of recruiting, and that I would find a job on my own. But next thing I knew, I was holding a leather Wharton portfolio and wearing a conservative tie at the Office of On-Campus Recruiting, answering brain teasers about jelly beans in a jar.

But there, too, our class found strength in numbers. After each interview I would huddle with my classmates to discuss our interviewers and try to figure out the best answer to the golden question, “What is your biggest weakness?” Appropriately, none of us could figure it out.

We don’t get no respect

And when we were not counting jelly beans, our class had to deal with being poked fun at by our non-Wharton counterparts. One of my good friends in the College is fond of saying that Wharton students can only speak in bullet points. To which I reply: a) That’s just not true, b) Many of my classmates are very well-spoken, c) Well…I guess he tricked me on that one, but the point is, contrary to popular belief, Wharton students actually deserve more respect since we graduate not only with a grasp of all the nuances of PowerPoint, but also with a similar knowledge of History and English as our liberal arts classmates.

Besides coping with ridicule coming from outside of Wharton, our class also had to learn to work together. One of the most talked-about aspects of the Wharton experience is the infamous Wharton curve. This mysterious curve, which allots the highest grades to the smallest percentage of each class, could have easily been a source of dissension. But, in my experience, the curve was just another example of a potential hardship that our class not only overcame, but that made us stronger. At no time did I ever feel I was without help. For even with the specter of the curve looming over us, the spirit of our class has always been one of cooperation, not competition. And that is what makes me so proud as I stand here today.

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Originally published on May 31, 2001