Founded in 1906, the Cum Laude Society is dedicated to honoring scholastic achievement in secondary schools. For Haverford's virtual Cum Laude Society induction this year, David Ford '93 was the featured guest speaker. He shares his remarks in this blog post.
Thank you Dr. Nagl, and thank you to the students and everyone else on this call for bearing with me for a few minutes of your time today. I have three quick things I’d like to say to you: congratulations, you’re nerds, and don’t worry about changing the world.
First, congratulations. This is a significant honor and one that should not be taken lightly. Frankly, any time you have an experience like this – one where others are applauding you for a job well done – you should take a moment to reflect on what that means. You thought hard. And you worked hard. And you applied your talents in an exceptional way. You accomplished something so meaningful that other people appreciated that success and recognized you for it. Be proud of yourself. The result of winning a trophy is not just the plastic memento that will sit on your shelf. Earning induction into a famed and honorable society such as Cum Laude is not just your name on a list and today’s pat on the back. It is a crystallization of the effort you put into taking yourself to the top. It is shorthand for the hours of work, the late nights, the “eureka” moments. It will go on your resume as secret code others will decipher as “this kid’s really got it”. And, when you look back on your time at Haverford from decades later, you’ll be able to say “I did this.” So, again, congratulations – and even though this is a virtual speech, you deserve some applause.
So, having said all that, my second point is that you’re all nerds. I should say, we’re all nerds. And that’s okay! I have to be honest, it took me a long long time to figure that out for myself. Not the nerd part – I knew that all along. At your age I loved programming computers, reading science fiction, and playing video games. My favorite subjects were physics and math. I was a nerd, and frankly I vividly remember being worried about what that might mean after Haverford, in college and beyond. Well guess what - today I love computers, read science fiction and play video games with my kids. I watch physics and math on YouTube for fun. And that’s okay!
Earning induction into a famed and honorable society such as Cum Laude is not just your name on a list and today’s pat on the back. It is a crystallization of the effort you put into taking yourself to the top.
We all know the successes of some famous nerds: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos. And how about Elon Musk? He was dubbed “The King Nerd” by Steven Colbert in 2017. Minutes ago, his company SpaceX made an effort – unfortunately cancelled due to bad weather – to launch two astronauts into orbit, the first private company ever to do so and the first manned launch in the US in almost a decade. That is okay.
What’s my point here? You can be a nerd. Or you don’t have to be a nerd. But be yourself. Be true to yourself. Follow your passion and your dreams. Do what you love. These are truisms I’m sure you’ve heard before - but there’s a reason for that, which brings me to my third point: keep at it, and you won’t have to worry about changing the world.
Today’s recognition is a milepost on a long journey. Keep at it. You will have many moments, both big and small, to make a difference. If you can continue to be true to yourself, to be proud of yourself and have the same faith in your skills, your work ethic and your intellectual firepower that the members of this Society do, the world will change for you.
One of my favorite memories of Haverford was captured in an (extremely nerdy) photo of my molecular biology classmate, Liad Meidar, and me holding up a Watson/Crick model of DNA we had built in the old Wilson Hall science lab. We went our separate ways after school, but Liad and I reconnected twelve years later to co-found a company called Gatemore. After working in the wealth management industry, we both believed that the large established banks, like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, weren’t doing it quite right. So we set out to do it ourselves. We started in borrowed space, literally sitting on trash cans before we bought office chairs. We had never operated a business before and had to figure it all out on the fly. And guess what? We kind of did it! It took years of persistence and a few lucky breaks, but we built our firm to over a billion dollars in assets with offices in Manhattan and London…and Bryn Mawr. Now let’s be honest here – we didn’t change the world – but we did affect – and we think improve – one tiny little part of it for our employees and our clients who relied on us every day. And that’s okay.
So what will you do? What will you change? I have no idea. Actually, you have no idea – that’s okay and don’t worry about it. Today’s recognition is a milepost on a long journey. Keep at it. You will have many moments, both big and small, to make a difference. If you can continue to be true to yourself, to be proud of yourself and have the same faith in your skills, your work ethic and your intellectual firepower that the members of this Society do, the world will change for you.
David Ford '93 has over 21 years of experience investing in public and private companies and funds and is a partner of Maplewood Capital. He began his professional career in M&A investment banking at Goldman Sachs and has been an investment analyst at MSD Capital and Select Equity Group. Most recently, David was a co-founder and partner of Gatemore Capital Management, an outsourced CIO that advises on the assets of high-net-worth families and institutions worldwide. David graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College with a B.A. in computer science and received an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was named an Arjay Miller Scholar. While at Haverford, David played soccer, squash, and rowed crew. He received numerous awards for his scholastics, including Cum Laude Society recognition. David is a former Haverford Board of Trustee and continues to sit on the Investment Committee. He has two sons enrolled in the Middle School.