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Cisco executive, alumnus to address new digital era’s impact on education at WVU’s David C. Hardesty, Jr.Festival of Ideas series


There is no doubt that  John Chambers has made an indelible impression on the global technology industry. And while he retired as chief executive officer of Cisco Systems Inc., in 2015 and plans to step down as Cisco’s executive chairman of the board at the end of the year when his term expires, Chambers is fully ready to take on new challenges.

A 1971 finance graduate of the  West Virginia University  College of Business and Economics and a 1974 WVU Law graduate, Chambers will speak on “The New Digital Era and the Implications for Education” on Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. The address is the latest in the  David C. Hardesty Jr., Festival of Ideas series.

“John Chambers is one of the historically important influencers of worldwide IT and networking, and was one of the architects of the infrastructure that now allows people, companies and organizations to connect, communicate and collaborate with each other in the digital era,” said  Javier Reyes, Milan Puskar Dean, WVU College of Business and Economics. “His contributions and accomplishments have helped transform these essential components of our everyday lives, and he continues to influence the direction they will take in the future. To have him — a two-time graduate of this university and a graduate of this business school — on campus to speak to students about how the digital era will impact our world is tremendous.”

A true entrepreneur at heart, Chambers is well-schooled about advanced startup companies and how future college graduates will blaze the trails of the world’s business landscape.

His connection to students has always been strong. In addition to being WVU’s 2001 Commencement  speaker, in 2012 when he was on campus to appear in the B&E Distinguished Speaker Series, he addressed hundreds of students in the public event, but took time to speak to a small group of  management information systems students. It comes as no surprise that one of the topics at the forefront of his mind is how technology will affect education.

“Educating and re-skilling our current and next generation workforce with digital skills for the future is more important today in the Digital Era,” Chambers said. “Digitization is one economic promise that holds true and is the foundation for inclusive growth around the world. WVU taught me that there is no limit to what you can achieve in life with the right education.”

As Cisco’s executive board chairman, he leads the board and provides advice and counsel to the CEO and Cisco leadership on the company’s strategy, digital transformation and strategic partnerships. As a working chairman, Chambers is focused on country digitization and building relationships with government and business leaders, shareholders and board members.

Chambers is the chairman of the newly formed U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Inc. and is a member of the board of directors for Airware, OpenGov, Pindrop and Sprinklr.

He joined Cisco in 1991 as senior vice president, Worldwide Sales and Operations. In 1995, he became president and CEO, a position he held until 2006 when he was appointed chairman of the board. He served as chairman and CEO from 2006 to 2015.

Over the course of 20 years leading Cisco, he helped grow the company from $70 million to $1.2 billion when he assumed the role of CEO, to $47 billion when he stepped down. Prior to joining Cisco, he spent eight years at Wang Laboratories and six years with IBM.

Chambers has received numerous awards for his leadership, including being named the number two “Best-Performing CEOs in the World” in 2015 from Harvard Business Review, “Best Boss in America” by 20/20, one of BusinessWeek’s “Top 25 Executives Worldwide,” “CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive Magazine. Most recently, he was awarded France’s National Defense Gold Medal, the only foreign business leader to ever receive the award in its 35-year history.

In addition, Chambers takes an active role in corporate social responsibility initiatives worldwide and has been recognized for his and Cisco’s philanthropic leadership, including receiving the U.S. State Department’s top corporate social responsibility award twice.

The David C. Hardesty, Jr. Festival of Ideas was created in 1995 by former WVU president David C. Hardesty, Jr. and is produced by  University Events. It was inspired by events he organized as WVU’s student body president in the 1960s. Today, the lecture series spans the academic year and engages a diverse group of newsmakers, public figures, thought leaders and WVU’s own superstars. 



CONTACT: Patrick Gregg, College of Business and Economics

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