Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, co-founders and co-CEOs of the innovative lifestyle brand Warby Parker, will deliver Northeastern’s commencement address for the afternoon graduate ceremony on Friday, May 5, 2017, at Matthews Arena in Boston.
Gilboa and Blumenthal will address some 4,000 graduates and their families from 65 countries at the ceremony. They will also each receive an honorary degree at commencement.
“Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal are innovative entrepreneurs whose vision has propelled Warby Parker from an unknown startup to a socially conscious business known the world over,” said President Joseph E. Aoun. “Their story serves as an inspiration to our students as they imagine their own entrepreneurial endeavors, and we are happy that they will join us at Commencement to celebrate our graduate students.”
Gilboa and Blumenthal founded Warby Parker in 2010 “with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective,” as the company says on its website. They wanted to offer designer eyewear at a low price, and also lead the way for socially conscious businesses.
For every pair of Warby Parker glasses purchased, the company makes a donation to their nonprofit partners that leads to a pair of glasses being distributed to someone in need. The nonprofit trains people in developing countries to administer basic eye exams and sells the glasses to the community at affordable prices. Through this sustainable model, Warby Parker says its customers have helped them distribute more than 2 million pairs of glasses to people in need.
In 2015, Fast Company named Warby Parker the most innovative company in the world.
Social enterprise is also a cornerstone of Northeastern’s educational mission, particularly for students who strive to address social challenges through business-driven solutions.
“Completing your graduate degree is a huge accomplishment, a moment to reflect, and a time to celebrate,” Gilboa and Blumenthal said. “We couldn’t be more excited to address the hardworking soon-to-be alums on this occasion.”
Prior to Warby Parker, Gilboa worked at merchant bank Allen & Company and Bain & Company. He has worked extensively with nonprofit organizations, and serves as a founding member of the Entrepreneur Board of Venture for America, an organization dedicated to mobilizing graduates as entrepreneurs in low-cost cities.
Gilboa is a member of the Aspen Institute’s 2014 Henry Crown Fellowship class and the Aspen Global Leadership Network. He has received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, and was recognized as part of “The Next Establishment” by Vanity Fair.
Blumenthal previously served as director of VisionSpring, a nonprofit social enterprise that trains low-income women to start their own businesses selling affordable eyeglasses to individuals living on less than $4 per day in developing countries. The World Economic Forum has named Blumenthal a Young Global Leader, and Fast Company tapped him as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business.” He serves on the board of RxArt and on the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council.
Gilboa, who was born in Sweden and raised in San Diego, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in bioengineering with honors from the University of California, Berkeley. Blumenthal, a native of New York, received his Bachelor of Arts from Tufts University. Both hold an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Last month, Northeastern announced that Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent and anchor of the network’s flagship global affairs program Amanpour, will deliver the commencement address at the university’s undergraduate ceremony on Friday morning, May 5, at TD Garden in Boston.