Apple CEO Tim Cook traveled cross country this week from his starring role at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference Monday to MIT’s Commencement ceremony Friday, June 9. The message he brought to MIT was deeply connected to his Apple experience. Cook said his search for a meaningful life took vivid shape once he joined Steve Jobs in the struggling computer company some 20 years ago.
What hooked Cook?
“I had never met a leader with such passion or a company with such a clear purpose to serve humanity. It was that simple. It was in that moment, something clicked. I finally felt alive,” he said. “And I felt aligned with a company at the cutting edge…and with my own deep need to serve something greater.”
Both MIT and Apple are examples of that commitment. Cook noted that MIT inventions have helped solve global problems and Apple develops features not based solely on ROI, such as an Apple watch that catches a heart condition before it becomes a heart attack.
He called on the new graduates to focus the exciting power of technology on improving the world. “Tech is capable of doing great things, but it doesn’t want to do great things,” Cook said. “Technology doesn’t want anything. That part takes all of us—it takes our values and commitment to our families, and our neighbors, and our communities…our decency, our kindness.”
Cook, clearly an evangelist for using technology for good, left these parting words for the 2,884 new undergraduate and graduate degree holders:
“As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘All life is interrelated. We are all bound together in a single garment of destiny.’ If you keep that idea at the forefront of everything you do...then today humanity has good cause for hope.”
Tune into the webcast to hear Cook's advice for the MIT community beginning at 2:55:22. Read President L. Rafael Reif's charge to the class, including a play on Jeopardy! and the Class of 2017 as MIT's newest product line.
Before Cook became CEO in 2011, he served as Apple’s chief operating officer responsible for worldwide sales and operations and headed Apple’s Macintosh division. Earlier in his career, he was vice president of corporate materials for Compaq and spent 12 years with IBM, ultimately as director of North American fulfillment. Cook earned an MBA from Duke University and a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Auburn University.
Things you may not know* about Tim Cook
- He was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1960.
- He described his first Apple job, senior VP for operations, in 1998 this way: "You kind of want to manage it like you're in the dairy business. If it gets past its freshness date, you have a problem."
- In 2009, Cook said that he offered a portion of his liver to Steve Jobs, since both share a rare blood type. Jobs, who was suffering from pancreatic cancer, said no.
- In 2014, Cook became the first chief executive of a Fortune 500 company to identify publicly as gay.
- He regularly begins sending emails at 4:30 a.m.
- In 2015, Cook said he planned to donate his entire stock fortune to charity.