Convocation a Night to Remember

The class of 2011 and their families will long remember their Convocation, when they gathered in USN’s historic auditorium—almost the last time they will sit together as a class—to hear this year’s PDS/USN Distinguished Alumnus share some of what he has learned since he was in their place.

See photos of Convocation.
Gideon Yu has accomplished many things since he graduated from USN in 1989. He earned an engineering degree from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He served as Chief Financial Officer for both Facebook and YouTube, negotiating business deals with mind boggling price tags. Business Insider described him as “the guy who crafted the biggest deal in the Web 2.0 era, selling YouTube to Google for $1.65 billion.”

And Gideon attributes his success to his high school math teacher, Debbie Davies, who retires from USN this year. At Senior Convocation last week, Gideon said, “If I were to be completely honest about Ms. Davies, outside of my mother and father no single person has made this much of an impact on my life. Nobody’s even close.”

Then he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a check which he presented to the school to establish the Debbie Davies Endowed Chair for Excellence in Teaching. It was a dramatic moment, and it answered the question posed by every teacher who has spent long after-school hours helping a student. Yes, such efforts make a difference.

Debbie Davies says, “While Gideon is gracious in his praise of me, the real credit goes to Gideon. He was a wonderful student to work with - hard-working, energetic, funny, appreciative and very kind.”

When Gideon Yu agreed to come to Nashville as USN’s 2011 Distinguished Alumnus, he stipulated two conditions. He would honor Debbie Davies, and he would find a way to speak to the students that broke the Convocation lecture mold. So the seniors sat in the front rows near him and asked him questions. 

He talked to them about self-acceptance, excellence, and facing challenges. When they go to college, he said, their greatest challenges are "not going to be academic because what you’ll find is that University School is much harder than any school you’ll go to. It is actually the growing up part…getting comfortable in my own skin was probably the best thing I got out of education."

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