When Susan Harman, MBA ’79, applied to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, she had yet to complete her undergraduate degree. However, she already had nine years of work experience on her résumé, having juggled a career at Black & Decker by day while attending college classes at night. “My path to Stanford was a little unusual,” she says.
Now 40 years and a successful career in finance later, Susan has named Stanford as a beneficiary in her will. She says that by designating part of her estate to the Graduate School of Business (GSB), she hopes to someday make a difference for other graduate students.
“My life trajectory before Stanford and after Stanford was radically different," she explains. “That’s a big part of my motivation for wanting to give back, both through my estate plan and in other ways.”
Naming Stanford as a beneficiary in her will qualifies Susan for membership in the university’s Founding Grant Society. Because her gift will benefit the GSB, Harman is also recognized as a GSB Legacy Partner, which celebrates GSB alumni who provide specifically for the business school in their estate plans.
Susan notes that the relationships she made on campus have been some of the most valuable of her life. She continues to maintain contact with many friends as well as professors that she met during her time at the GSB. “These are the relationships that I continue to forge and that have lasted throughout the years—particularly with the women in my class,” she says.
After graduating high school in Towson, Maryland, Susan began working at Black & Decker as a secretary and eventually became one of the first female supervisors. “I lifted the glass ceiling as high as I could, then I went to business school.”
When she earned her bachelor’s degree at Towson University, she was one of the first in her family to graduate from college.
“I was a bit of an anomaly in 1975 because I was an ambitious woman,” she says. “I went to Stanford and met a lot of other ambitious women who were good people. That’s when I felt validated in the path I was taking.”
After Stanford, Susan became an investment banker in the Bay Area, worked on some of the first technology IPOs, and later shifted to the entrepreneurship side. She also regularly participated in GSB activities, volunteering during her reunion years and becoming involved in the Women’s Initiative Network. This group was founded in 2006 to help women at all stages of their careers, from increasing the percentage of women in each GSB class to providing forums for alumnae to develop relationships and support each other in their professional lives.
This year, Harman is on the planning committee for her 40th reunion. As a volunteer, she encourages fellow classmates to reconnect with Stanford by attending reunion events, seeing old friends, and thinking about the legacy they want to leave at the university.
She notes that her connection to Stanford has only grown throughout the years. “I cannot overstate the impact the GSB had on my life, and I want to make that possible for current and future students.”