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Live Up to Your Own Legacy, eBay Founding President Jeffrey Skoll Tells Santa Clara University Graduate Degree Recipients.

Jeffrey Skoll

SANTA CLARA, Calif., June 12, 2009 – Write your epitaph and then work backwards to achieve it, eBay founding president, philanthropist, and media executive Jeffrey Skoll advised the graduates of Santa Clara University’s three advanced-degree programs.

The graduation of about 800 students from the School of Engineering, the Leavey School of Business and Administration, and the School of Education, Counseling Psychology, and Pastoral Ministries took place Friday evening at the university’s Leavey Center.

Delivering his address in front of an ebullient, multi-ethnic crowd of thousands of family, friends and supporters, Skoll suggested that the graduates should strive to accomplish their generation’s “moon shot,” referring to America’s first lunar landing 40 years ago.

“Maybe it is to reverse climate change and bring the snows back to Kilimanjaro,” he mused. “Maybe it is to replace conflict with cooperation in the Middle East,” he added.

He said the graduates would not be constrained by the old model of “learning, earning, and returning,” and instead can go to school, make money, and give back to their communities simultaneously, at any stage of life. “Every generation has the ability to alter the course of history,’’ he said. “Each of you has the chance to make a difference.’’

Skoll revealed that his own dream had been to be a writer, and he pursued business ventures mostly to be able to afford to write “stories that would get people involved in the issues that affect us all.”

After earning his MBA from Stanford, Skoll started a few companies, including a failed computer-rental business, “unfortunately named Micros on the Move,” he said. The venture “didn’t do too well because people kept stealing the computers.” He was later recruited to become founding president of online auction company eBay by his friend and eBay creator Pierre Omidyar—thankfully overcoming his first reaction of “What a stupid idea!”

Skoll, who also received an honorary Doctor of Public Service from SCU, said his eBay experience “gave me resources to do things that I had never imagined.”

He has since founded the Skoll Foundation, focused on socially beneficial entrepreneurship, and Participant Media, which uses film and other media to “tell stories that inspire and compel social change.” The company has released films including Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” about the McCarthy era, and “The Kite Runner.” His new organization, the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund, identifies and supports innovative high-impact initiatives to combat climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, and the Middle East conflict.

In closing, Skoll encouraged the graduates to consider what their dreams might help them accomplish. “What would happen if you all applied the full range of your skills to solving the world’s biggest problems?” he asked.

Skoll was introduced by Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, and was given his honorary degree by SCU President Michael Engh, S.J., with assistance from Robert Finocchio, chairman of SCU's Board of Trustees.  Engh suggested the graduates follow the example of Skoll and inspire others to act more justly, compassionately and generously. “You’ve already made us proud; now become a model for us,’’ Engh told the group.

Other information about the three graduate programs at SCU:

Class size: 187
Top Ethnicities: Asian (45%); White (26%); International (12%); Hispanic (6%)
Gender: 83% Male; 17% Female
Most Popular Majors: Engineering (30%); Engineering Management (28%); Computer Engineering (22%); Mechanical Engineering (16%)

Business School
Class Size: 373
Top Ethnicities: Asian (39%); White (28%); International (10%)
Gender: 66% Male; 34% Female
Most Popular Majors: MBA (86%); Executive MBA (7%); MSIS (6%)

Education, Counseling Psychology and Pastoral Ministries:
Class Size: 252
Top Ethnicities: White (54%); Asian (15%); Hispanic (13%)
Gender: 83% Female; 17% Male
Most Popular Majors: M.A. Educational Administration (30%); M.A. Counseling Psychology (25%); M.A. Interdisciplinary Ed. (20%); M.A. Special Ed. (16%); M.A. Counseling (10%)

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its 8,758 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see


Deborah Lohse, SCU Media Relations


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