Sir Michael Moritz honoured as Fellow

16 July 2014

Sir Michael Moritz (right) being received as Fellow by Sir Emyr Jones Parry, President of Aberystwyth University.
Sir Michael Moritz (right) being received as Fellow by Sir Emyr Jones Parry, President of Aberystwyth University.

The Cardiff-born venture capitalist and philanthropist, Sir Michael Moritz has been honoured as Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

Sir Michael is chairman of Sequoia Capital in California’s Silicon Valley where he has worked since 1986.

After studying history at Oxford University, he moved to the US and worked for a while at Time magazine before carving out a career as one of Silicon Valley’s most sought-after investors.

He is a former member of the board of directors of Google and his internet company investments include Google, Yahoo!, PayPal, Webvan, YouTube, eToys, and Zappos.

He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to promoting British economic interests and philanthropic work.

Sir Michael Moritz was presented by Professor Steve McGuire, Head of the School of Management and Business, on Tuesday 15 July.

Professor Steve McGuire’s presentation:

“President, Vice-Chancellor

Capitalism has – rather unsurprisingly – been subjected to ferocious criticism in the wake of the recent recession.  I spoke recently with one of our alumni who serves on the School’s corporate advisory board.  He spoke of his relief that the behaviour of energy companies had for a moment at least, knocked banks off the top of the public hate list!   Yet, the individual we honour today reminds us of the power of the market to create new products, services and to improve people’s lives.  But the market can only do so, buttressed by effective political institutions and a shared understanding about the social obligations of market participants.   This is what Michael Sandel, the Harvard philosopher referred to as ‘the moral limits to markets’.

I want to suggest that successful investing has its foundations in a good university education – hence our ceremony today.  Any good university degree gives its holder three things: the ability to gather information (to research); then, the ability to analyse this information through technical skill and imagination; finally, you act on this information, by publishing your results, or investing, or recommending a course of action to top management.  Sir Michael’s career displays all these elements.

Sir Michael was born in Wales and educated at the University of Oxford,  where he read history.  Like his father, Sir Michael excelled in academics and on that basis won a Thouron Scholarship to study at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  Upon completion of his MBA, Sir Michael worked first as a journalist for TIME magazine, a career move that would expose him to the fast developing world of Silicon Valley – at the time when few people would even know where this ‘Valley’ was.  In 1986 he joined the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, rising to become chairman.  During his time at Sequoia, he invested in a string of start-up companies, some of which have been reasonably successful: Google, LinkedIn, YouTube.

Sir Michael’s career is testimony to the importance of the ability to gather information, assess it, and act on it.  Given the ubiquity of Google, can you imagine what it must have felt like for Sir Michael to have listened to the then completely unknown founders of the company, and backed it.

I spoke at the outset of the social and moral obligation of markets.  Sir Michael has been a generous supporter of social mobility in the UK and the US by supporting scholarship programmes at Oxford and the University of California.  He has also supported the arts and the preservation of historic buildings.  Aberystwyth University is unusual among UK universities in being founded by its local community drawing on the generosity of individuals for a social purpose.  I hope on that basis, Sir Michael feels at home here.

President, we offer Honorary Fellowship to individuals whose work affects people well beyond their immediate circle.  When people use Google, or LinkedIn – or when they visit buildings and attend a top university on a scholarship, they are benefiting from Sir Michael’s efforts.

Mr Llywydd, mae’n fraint ac yn bleser gennyf gyflwyno i chi Sir Michael Moritz, yn Gymrawd Prifysgol Aberystwyth.”

2014 Fellows
Eleven Fellows are being honoured this week by Aberystwyth University during this year’s Graduation ceremonies which take place at the University’s Arts Centre from Monday 14 until Friday 18 July.

The title of Fellow is awarded to individuals who have a close association with Aberystwyth and the University, or who have made an outstanding contribution to professional or public life in Wales.

Also being honoured are:

  • D. Geraint Lewis, author, former Education and Children’s Librarian for Dyfed and Assistant Director of Education at Ceredigion County Council.
  • Professor John Harries, renowned atmospheric physicist and Wales’ first Chief Scientific Adviser.
  • Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Editor.
  • Rhodri Meilir, actor and Aberystwyth graduate who recently appeared in the National Theatre of Wales’ highly acclaimed Mametz.
  • Ed Thomas, playwright, director and producer, and founder member and creative director of TV production company Fiction Factory.
  • Rhod Gilbert, comedian and radio and TV presenter.
  • Professor Bonnie Buntain, Assistant Dean Professor of Public Health at the University of Calgary in Canada and former Chief Public Health Veterinarian at the Food Safety and Inspection Service for the US Department of Agriculture.
  • Dr John Sheehy, Emeritus Head of Applied Photosynthesis and Systems Modelling Laboratory at the International Rice Research Institute and an alumnus of Aberystwyth University.
  • Brian Jones, farmer, entrepreneur, and founder and Managing Director of Castell Howell Foods Ltd.
  • Baroness Kay Andrews, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, former Chair of English Heritage and an Aberystwyth alumna.

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Arthur Dafis
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01970 621763 / 07841 979 452 / aid@aber.ac.uk