Daniel Petroff ’09 was the student speaker at Columbia Business School’s Recognition Ceremony on May 17, 2009. This is an excerpt from his speech.

I remember the first week of school being full of surprises. I didn’t expect that I’d be nervous that first morning as I walked up the steps of Uris past our cheering Peer Advisors. Or that my clustermates would actually think I was the single oldest person in our entire class. I was amazed that it was possible to produce such a wide variety of completely inedible box lunches. And I hadn’t expected that taking every class with the same people would be such a comfort and such a pleasure.

I remember hearing how a classmate’s parents started dating at the School and graduated 36 years ago, a story that a number of you are well on your way to making your own.

I remember the phenomenal trips I’ve shared with so many of you. Skiing the bumps in Colorado; smoking a hookah in Dubai; offroading in Iceland; diving on the Great Barrier Reef; tasting wines in Napa; sailing in the Caribbean. All made possible by countless hours of hard work by people here today.

I remember standing in a packed Uris lobby as we stared up at the televisions and watched the markets dive. I remember finally having my “wow” moment as a Peer Advisor. And I’ll remember being here today with all of you.

When I was struggling to write this speech, I was heartened by how many classmates provided encouragement and advice. One suggested a theme centered on the economist Joseph Schumpeter and creative destruction. Another offered me the speech he had drafted for his own audition. And there were many more creative ideas and magnanimous gestures.

Then one wise classmate brought it all together for me when he said, “I came to Columbia expecting great things for my career, and instead the greatest things came from the people I met.”

At the start of school, we heard again and again about the value of the Columbia network, about how important your classmates are to you, about how you can’t do it alone.

And I remember that many of us, me included, didn’t really get it. I remember the former investment banker who patiently taught a clustermate how to build a discounted cash flow model to value Clarkson Lumber.

I remember the alumna who, though exhausted from constant travel, took three precious hours out of a rare day in New York to help me figure out what to do with my life.

I remember the entire student body, despite the economic downturn and uncertain employment outlook, raising almost exactly as much money this year as we did last year for the Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship Program.

I remember the consultants who returned from their summer internships with full-time offers and then devoted part of their winter break to preparing classmates for case interviews.

And I remember the classmate who stayed in Africa to look after a friend struck ill and hospitalized while on spring break, and another who stayed overnight in the emergency room watching over a friend with a broken jaw.

I am honored to be a member of the Class of 2009. Individually, you are as talented and driven as anyone I have ever met. Together, we are even better.

If I can ask only one thing of each of you, then I ask you this: just as you have spent the last two years being excellent to each other, spend the next 50 years being even more so.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Student Affairs