Keynote Speaker David Tepper – Commencement 2018VW Staff
Philanthropist and Investment Icon David Tepper (TPR 1982) delivered the keynote address at Carnegie Mellon University’s 121st Commencement on May 20, 2018.
Keynote Speaker David Tepper - Commencement 2018
It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker business leader investment icon philanthropist Business School alum university trustee and Carnegie Mellon champion. David Alan Tepper Oh I have several pages to read David through. He is legendary business savvy and investment expertise. David David has earned an unrivaled reputation as one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the world. But he's equally well known for his passion for philanthropy. His belief in the power of higher education and of course his exceptional service and generosity to his alma mater Carnegie Mellon University. David grew up not too far from here in Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The middle of three children I should just add so that Davis mother Roberta is here with us. Would you please acknowledge Roberta he went to the University of Pittsburgh for his undergraduate degree in economics before receiving his MBA in 1982 from our Graduate School of Industrial Administration. It wasn't called the Tepper's school back there I know. In 1985 he was recruited by Goldman Sachs as a credit analyst and within just six months he became the head trader under newly established high yield bond group. This was the first clue that Dave it was a fur force to be reckoned with on Wall Street. In 1993 the same year the web entered the public domain. David stablished Appaloosa Management and over the last 25 years has built an impressively consistent record of high returns Appaloosa currently has approximately 17 billion under management and has yielded gross returns close to 40 percent per year over the past 20 years.
Through David Tepper charitable foundation his philanthropy has expanded opportunities for education help to fight hunger and homelessness and provided much needed disaster relief. He has generously donated a total of hundred and twenty five million to Carnegie Mellon University. Including naming and endowing the Tepper School of Business where he serves as the school's business board of advisors and in 2013. His most recent transformative gift enabled the creation of a state of the art facility on the new David A. Tepper quadrangle scheduled to open this fall at more than 300 thousand square feet. This building will serve as the new home for the Tepper School of Business as well as a major hub for collaboration innovation creativity and entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon Tepper quad will create unprecedented opportunities to break new barriers. And to work toward new discoveries new technologies new businesses and new forms of expression as our institution continues to grow and build for an evolving future. The Tepper quad is that physical realization of a new model for 21st Century Research and Education and it will transform the CMU experience for generations of students to come Dave it has given so much to Carnegie Mellon to our nation and the world and we're delighted to welcome him back to campus to share his wisdom with the Class of 2018. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to David A. TAPPER David good morning. Class of 2018 I have a speech here. Nice binder I think I might read it later but I just a couple observation first that I didn't think about before back over there I was standing next to Kevin. He's right there and we were talking. His voice was shaking. My voice was shaking.
We were both nervous as I was going to say another word but I'm told I'm not supposed to say those words today. So we're coming out and we're we're there and we're both kind of like Sheekey a little bit and then Kevin Kevin starts straightening up he starts getting the strength about. And he says I'm starting to feel it. These are my people my people. So we say that he pointed out some friends over there. We said Hadas family over there. His mother Lauren who told me a couple of stories about Kevin that I'm not going to say now. Went up the aisle shake a few hands there said alota and wall high and will get to see you over there. And you know Kevin just came up here and gave the most fantastic speech. And I'm thinking Oh crap I came up just couldn't because I got something I got to read and twice as long and I can't just kind of adlib it. And then I was thinking well you know what you guys cabbage family you guys out here. Students please. All you guys here you're my people too. OK. You're my people too. You're Carnegie Mellon people. Carnegie Mellon students Carnegie Mellon graduates my people. So help me out today I need help because I've got to read this and I don't know how it's going to go. So we'll to see. All right. Let me start by thanking foreign him for that kind introduction for that kind introduction. I've got to get this kind of right here.
I don't know what I'm going to do after his leadership of Carnegie Mellon as you know for him. This place means the world to me. It really is a treasure. There's no other university that brings together business. Where are you. Thank you. The Arndt's the humanities the sciences and the social sciences the way CMU does the right to see you. Thanks also to my fellow trustees to my fellow alumni who are all over the place here as your Terry I apologize. They told me not to leave the podium but I don't get I'm sorry about that engineering. Can I get a hardhat up here this thing. All right. I lost my place but I'll try. Thanks also to my fellow trustees my fellow alumni and most of all to you guys your students and to your parents. A special thanks to my family and friends who are here today. And of course to my 86 year old mom. I think she's over there hi mom were you over there someplace. Mom where are you mom someplace over there. I think my mom's a little happy and proud today. But my mom sometimes can be a pain in the butt and I'm sure your parents can be too. But there is nobody on earth. I own War II and there's nobody on earth you are more than your parents in life in life. You should recognize your parents. So let's take a moment and thank them. And last but not least I want to congratulate and thank my fellow honorary doctors at. Where are you Adam at as a very funny lady.
I've got to tell you this who I was going to miss to her later a Nobel Prize and what she also has a Nobel Prize. It's a side thing. Shafi Goldwasser a touring award winner. And a guy used to watch on TV when I was younger. Not that much younger than Emmy Award winner Ted Danson catching up to her white kid. His wife has a couple doctors more than him so but he's catching up. It's amazing what you can find out by talking to people getting to listen. Now after the thank you I think I'm supposed to start a speech here and preparing I was given advice from professional speechwriters and public relations people. And of course my children. They all told me not to be too controversial and try to be proper. Let me apologize to all of them in advance. Sorry guys not going to happen. I also prepared by listening to some of the best commencement speeches of all time. Many work by actors. Some were by politicians all were delivered with eloquence and in a professional manner to all those of attendants to all those in attendance. If you were expecting to hear a professional speech today you may be at the wrong commencement. But what I can't promise what I can promise you is as much honesty and personal personal life experiences as I can muster. I think people slice are really a combination of different place. For students it's been a life you had before college with your parents and the life you had at college now and a life you are about to embark on. I'm sure some of you I'm sure some of you have overcome incredible adversity.
All of you have had and I can promise you won't have challenges. Disappointments and triumphs. I'm no different on the trumpet triumph side. This has been a of week. A kid from the streets of Pittsburgh who had to work his way through college at Pitt and Grabski Wordsley CMU just got an honorary doctor and it's given commencement speech at this university. A kid a kid who could afford to go to an NFL game. I kid I kid who. Sorry about that. A kid who couldn't afford to go to an NFL game until well into his 20s is on the verge of getting the NFL star pupil to buy the Carolina Panthers. Not too shabby but believe me it didn't start out that way. I grew up I grew up in a working class neighborhood of Stann heights in the city of Pittsburgh. We played touch football in the street and tackle football in a nearby cemetery. We try to not hit the gravestones. The cell phone of the day was mom calling up the street to safe's dinner was ready. My dad like a lot of dads had to work 60 hours weeks just to make ends meet. But he taught me a couple of things a couple important lessons. First always think about charity and those less fortunate he gave. Even when my family didn't have enough and another lesson he used to ask us who do you treat better the president or the garbagemen. Do you guys know the answer. Garbagemen. I'm talking just generally not about any specific president by the way.
Garbage man garbage man is garbage man may be the right answer because somebody's got to take your trash every day right. And if he does it take your trash really trouble. But actually the answer is you treat them both as both the same. All men and women and women deserve to be treated equally and with respect despite these good things about my dad. He had a bad sight too. He was physically abusive to me. I'm sure it was a cycle that he got from his father and his father got from his father in my young life. There was nothing more terrifying. There was no greater adversity. But I pray to God that I would never be the same to my children. And I'm proud to say what I've us the greatest accomplishment of my life. I broke that cycle. Thank you. Now I'm shaking High School was at an inner city school called Peabody. It was about half white and half African-American. There really wasn't a lot of tension at the school between us at the school back then. And between the different high schools things were so bad between Westinghouse High School and Peabody I think it's now called a Barack Obama high. That when we played each other in football it was in front of empty stands to keep people from fighting. It was rough. There was actually no grass on the field it was dirt rocks and they used to oil down the field to keep the dust from coming up. True story one field goal post was against the school. The other field goal post was against a fence. If you ran out of the endzone you had real problems.
So I played a little football in high school when I was also in school plays CFA. But money be short. I had to work my first job application was at McDonald's. I got turned down. I did I think it was because I had an oversized Afro wouldn't be a problem. Today Jackson wanted to take that off was so frickin hot up here. I got to tell you but I did get a job as a short order cook in a deli. I also sold nights door to door. And it was a union work in a bakery. After high school I went to the University of Pittsburgh where is it down there were there there where I ate the dirty low interventional hotdog anybody original hot dog France who liked the french fries better you like the hotdogs better french fries. Raise your hand. FLATOW All right. French fries when the day they did the dirty yo had a girlfriend a too and worked at a fine arts library and got an honors degree in economics. After Pitt I worked at a bank for a little. And then came to Cornick Nagy Melick from my MBA even though is hard work. I actually loved this place. It was also the foundation for everything I've done professionally since then. This paid place. This place gave me the tools I needed to be successful. It really did. I'm not kidding. Well when I graduated I kind of like marketing investments. So I tried to get a job with Goldman Sachs but they rejected me. They didn't get a job there.
We'll come back to Goldman Sachs a little later. So after I got my MBA I made an unusual choice at the time. I went to work for Republic Steel. That wasn't a great time for steel but I know I wouldn't be exposed to a lot. And I really wanted to learn about three months after I got the Republic Steel they gave it 7 percent across the board pay cuts pay cut all my business buddies all my good business school friends called me up and said Great Choice tap it two years republic still had to merge to avoid bankruptcy. But it was a great choice. And in those two years that they were trying to save the company the public did more finance deals than it had at its previous 100 year history. And I learned from each one of them there's a lesson here and life in life. Get all the experience you can while you're young go for the experience versus a paycheck. That kind of experience got me a job at a mutual fund specializing in distressed companies and eventually in the door of Goldman Sachs where in a short time because my previous job experience and Qatar gets things cutting gets things I learned to CMU Ivy as quickly and became the head trader and Goldman's junk desk that gave me more status and I knew at the time but I really wanted was to become a partner. I was up a partner for a few times but never made it. One of the reasons was I had to refuse a powerful partner's request.
The story is this the partner has started a new fund to invest in bankrupt companies and I was supposed to make the trades for him. He was also the partner who controlled our restricted lists. That's the list of companies where you might have some conflict or some sensitive information. He asked me to buy a company that he had just removed from the restricted list that day that day. It didn't seem right. In fact I went to a legal department and told them what was going on. They said it would be okay after a lot of back and forth but it still didn't feel right to me. So I refused again. I didn't get fired but when I came up for partner I got shot down. And I was incredibly upset. But you know what. You know what. It turned out alright because I didn't end up a partner at Goldman Sachs. I started starting my own company 25 years ago in 1993 called Appaloosa and ended up doing something that was a lot more fun and made my life better. In so many ways in life in life. Do what's right really do what's right and won't hurt you just keep your priorities straight. You know I keep saying in life but really as I said before there are many lies. I've had an incredible life from humble beginnings. I've raised three great kids have a woman I love. I've had a successful business career an incredible philanthropic endeavors. And now I am speaking to you as a newly named doctorate and I am on the verge of being named an NFL owner. You guys you guys used to this is OK to say guys do this.
Girls go guys just guys girls whatever it is. Sorry you had a life with your parents then a life at CMU and you're going to have a few more lives right now like I did I think. Now you all have negative balance sheets but you have so much upside. You all have great opportunities ahead. Don't let anyone anyone tell you different you will live in what was is and always will be the land of opportunity and the most and the greatest and most generous country in the world. Remember remember this last thing when all you become successful. Remember to give back give back. God bless all of you. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you.