At վ's Commencement Exercises in May 2024, the university was delighted to confer an honorary doctorate on Dr. Mark Getty,co-founder and chairman of Getty Images,in recognition of his substantial contributions to the visual arts and his commitment to cultural heritage.

Dr. Mark Getty isa true pioneer whose leadership at Getty Images has revolutionized the accessibility of art and historical imagery. Hehas demonstrated a lifelong commitment to preserving and democratizing art—a mission that resonates deeply with the core values of վ. His philanthropic endeavors, including significant contributions to the National Gallery in London, reflect a deep commitment to education, cultural appreciation, and preserving and celebrating human creativity.

Dr. Mark Getty
Honorary Degree
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Upon receiving the award, Dr. Getty delivered this address to AUR's graduating students.

I would like to begin by thanking Dr Scott Sprenger and the trustees of the վ University of Rome for this great honour. I have had a couple of months to think about an answer to the question, ‘why me?’ And I have just under ten minutes to tell you why me.

The real answer to the ‘why me’ question, as it is to the ‘why you’ question, involves serendipity, chance, coincidence, and openness. But more of that later.

So why me?

Well this is վ. It makes sense to join the dots. My parents moved to Rome as a young couple for what was intended to be a short stay. It was going to be a work-experience-life-experience kind of thing. They left San Francisco and made their home here in Rome. It was the late 1950’s, and Rome was living its post war rebirth with the Dolce Vita. They never went back.

As a result I was born a few hundred yards from this spot on the Gianicolo at Salvator Mundi. So that’s the simple and surface answer to ‘why me’. I am an վ in Rome.

The real reason is that some of my experience may be useful to you.

In short, my experience is less about structure and more about openness, trust, and curiosity.

I was badly educated. Let’s get that out of the way. After all of these years, I am willing to share some of the blame for that. But mostly, I blame Nixon, Watergate, and the Vietnam War for replacing education with politics. However, I am also grateful to Nixon, Watergate, and the Vietnam War for waking me up. As a direct result of them, I learned to care about people, places, and outcomes way beyond my narrow horizons. Formal education in Italy at the time, as in much of the rest of the world, was going through a deep cultural and structural change. People’s belief in authority was shaken. There was something feral and wild about the world.

I’m painting a dark picture, and I guess it was a dark time. And it’s a dark and dangerous time today, too. But then, as now, when faith in politics and faith in authority were so low, I put my faith in people andin individuals, not institutions.

I have always looked for mentors in life and still do today. I look up to people who have curiosity and a passion for life. I search them out. There are times when you might not find them, and you might think you are struggling on your own. But there is always someone waiting for a light to be on for each of us.

Everything I have ever achieved, be it Getty Images or the public institutions I have helped guide for decades, has been done by teams of people who share a vision, set most of their ego aside, and trust each other.

I have never had a single brilliant idea, but I have had a large number of brilliant relationships with people I look up to and admire.

In hindsight it looks like the path to these achievements is so steep that it’s not possible to do. But it's never like that when your living it. It’s one step at a time, and always with people you have chosen to be with. And that’s the key. It comes back to serendipity, chance, coincidence, and openness.

Getty Images was part chance and part design. I was working in an investment bank in London. I knew that I didn’t want to work in finance for my whole life, but I also knew that it would be a great place to meet a lot of bright and interesting colleagues and clients. After a few months there, I figured out who the brightest and best young banker was, and I did whatever I could to work on his team.

Once there, we worked on various projects together, and I bent his ear about leaving the bank and setting up a business together. We did.

We didn’t have the faintest idea of what the business would be. But we liked each other, respected each other, shared the same values -and thought of life as an adventure. The idea became Getty Images.

The original plan was a three page document. Today it’s a tech company, a content company, and a media company. At the time we knew nothing about technology, content, or media.

Over the years, our competitors have been Bill Gates, Google, Reuters, and Adobe. Today, you can add Open AI to the list. If I had known that these would be our competitors we might not have begun. But we didn’t. What mattered was us, our passion, our curiosity, and our desire.

Why tell you this?

It’s simple. The legend of business, the legend of building things, and the legend of success, is that unique, special, and extraordinary individuals are behind it all. It makes it seem impossible for us to ever have success in those terms. But the legend is just that, a legend. It’s not the truth. The truth is that success and fulfillment in life come in all different shapes and sizes. If there is a common denominator, it's about being open to ideas, placing the highest value on people and relationships, and recognizing always that there is someone out there, not far away, who is willing to share your voyage.

I want to end by encouraging you to always be curious, to place your heart above your head, and to trust people. Success is built from faith, not doubt.

Congratulations to all of you.

Thank you.

վ is delighted to welcome Dr. Mark Getty to our distinguished list of honorary degree recipients; individuals that inspire our community on a daily basis.