Dan Helfrich (SFS’98, MBA’99): Be a Human. Be a Horseshoe. Be a Hoya.
After spending four transformative, enriching, and fulfilling years on the Hilltop—the Georgetown McDonough undergraduate Class of 2023 will begin the next chapter of their adult lives. Each student will pave their unique path forward, but as Hoya alumni, the Spirit of Georgetown will connect the graduates for years to come.
Before embarking on their post-Georgetown journey, McDonough undergraduates and their families gathered for an afternoon commencement on Saturday, May 20. The keynote address for the undergraduate degree ceremony was delivered by Dan Helfrich (SFS’98, MBA’99), a beloved Double Hoya, one of the longtime voices of Georgetown’s men’s soccer broadcasts, and since 2019, the chair and CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP. In addition to delivering the McDonough commencement address, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia awarded him an honorary doctorate at the ceremony.
Helfrich began his commencement address by recounting his time on the Hilltop with fondness and nostalgia.
“Well, it’s exactly 25 years since I sat in your seat on this very lawn. Looking back this week at Hoya photos provided a jolt of the very best kind of recollection.”
Fast forward to 2023, Helfrich oversees a growing team of more than 85,000 professionals who help clients innovatively face today’s most complex issues. After leading Deloitte during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and various national conflicts, he said the one thing that can be controlled during unsettling times is one’s mindset.
“I approach every day with the mentality that I am a leader-in-training,” Helfrich said. “It’s a mindset that permissions me to be vulnerable, to change my mind, and most importantly, to learn from other people around me. So let me start with this: I hope you have the wisdom to always seek advice and the courage not to follow it.”
Helfrich delivered three main points during his keynote speech. He expressed the need for more of the “three H’s” in the world as he sees it: Humanity, Horseshoes, and Hoyas. Helfrich explained that each graduate can make positive contributions to society by living and leading with these “three H’s” top of mind.
“One of society’s biggest challenges is how to maintain our humanity in an increasingly virtual, digital, and disconnected world. Georgetown has always espoused a value of cura personalis, the care of the person. And therefore, Georgetown graduates are uniquely positioned to take on this challenge as you enter the workforce and shape the cultures of organizations you join.”
For the second “H”, Helfrich emphasized the importance of having “horseshoe-thinking institutions,” for example those openly inclusive vs. those with closed circles of leaders to address some of the most difficult obstacles of this era.
“Whether it’s climate, poverty, national security, or health care, horseshoe thinkers will win the day because they have the humility to look beyond their walls and know that it’s the combination of federal governments and local governments, large business and small business, nonprofit and academia, policymakers and entrepreneurs, engineers and anthropologists that must combine forces to achieve the best outcomes at the fastest pace.”
And the final “H” directly addressed the need for more Georgetown graduates out in the world. He said the Class of 2023 is leaving the university as well-rounded people, with high integrity, and a global and inclusive mindset, and implored the Class of 2023 to “please stay that way.”
While Helfrich shared advice and experiences of his own, some members of the Class of 2023 imparted words of wisdom and encouragement to future Georgetown students. Neal Singal (B’23) encouraged incoming Hoyas to embrace all of the many opportunities that the campus community has to offer and to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge, camaraderie, and support that the university provides.
“From the moment you arrive on campus, be open to exploring new interests and stepping out of your comfort zone. Embrace the opportunity to attend as many events as you can, both at Georgetown and around Washington, D.C., as well. Also, make sure to fully utilize the extensive Georgetown network—there are numerous mentors dedicated to supporting undergraduate students, as long as you take the initiative to reach out.”
Other graduates shared words of reflection that underscore similar sentiments. Anjali Bobba (B’23) said her collegiate experience has been defined by the Georgetown community as a whole.
“The people that comprise Georgetown motivate each other to reach their full potential, not only academically, but also morally. I can only hope to once again find myself surrounded by such value-driven people.”
For Daviana Soberanis (B’23), a first-generation and low-income student, she said she initially faced “imposter syndrome” when arriving on Georgetown’s campus but quickly realized the importance of getting involved and taking advantage of the opportunities the university has to offer.
Soberanis said her favorite Georgetown memory is when she competed and won the Ventures and Values Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition during her sophomore year Ethical Values of Business Class.
“I don’t love public speaking, but my professor was wonderful in helping us prepare and by the time I had to pitch, it was a great experience. I also appreciated that we won with a less traditional idea, and one that was really aligned with my more personal interests.”
As the Class of 2023 leaves the Hilltop with a tremendous amount of Hoya pride, so does Helfrich. He thanked Dean Paul Almeida and President John DeGioia for the “honor of a lifetime to be a small part of this momentous day.”
Helfrich concluded his speech with one last mention of his “three H’s”.
“This university has blessed my life in more ways than any person could possibly deserve. My warmest congratulations to the Class of 2023. Be a Human. Be a Horseshoe. Be a Hoya.”
The graduates of the Dikran Izmirlian Program in Business and Global Affairs (BGA) program also celebrated their commencement activities with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences today, which marks a personal accomplishment as well as a milestone for the program. The Class of 2023 is the first cohort to earn their BGA degrees from Georgetown.
The full speech can be found on Georgetown University’s Youtube channel or Facebook page.