TASIS The American School in Switzerland was delighted to welcome alumna Veronika Mühlhofer '97, the Venue Press Operations Manager for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, to campus on January 16–17. Her visit, which marks the second installment of the 2022–2023 TASIS Speaker Series, included a keynote address to members of the senior class in the Palmer Cultural Center, a presentation at a Middle School assembly, seven classroom visits, and a dinner with the student and faculty members who serve on the TASIS Speaker Series Committee.
In her keynote address on the evening of January 16, which can be viewed in full below, Ms. Mühlhofer encouraged students to find their passion and follow it and then recounted her own impressive journey. Born in Vienna, her family moved to Lugano when she was seven years old, and she began attending TASIS in grade seven. (TASIS did not have an elementary school in those days). A standout soccer player and student, she went on to be the Valedictorian of the Class of 1997 and fielded admissions offers from Stanford University, Yale University, Princeton University, and the University of California, Berkeley. She ultimately settled on Stanford, and it was there that her love for the sport of rugby was born. She is now a World Rugby Level 3 certified coach and educator and sits on the Board of Rugby Europe, chairing its Audit and Risk Committee. She was previously the CEO of the Swiss Rugby Union and currently serves on the Council of World Rugby, where she represents Rugby Europe and its 46 member unions.
With an undergraduate degree in Economics and master’s degrees in both Sociology and Sports Management, Ms. Mühlhofer also now has more than two decades of experience in international sports and event management, including seven Olympic Games and countless World and European Championships in several sports. She has lived, worked, or studied in the United States, Europe, Asia, South America, and Russia and speaks six languages. She also has a keen interest in entrepreneurship and founded the events management company Millionsports.
She explained to students that there are far more types of careers in sports than they might have imagined, provided a blueprint for starting out in any field, and shared the following keys to success for turning one’s passion into a career:
- Quality of Work: Deliver Excellence!
Become really, really good at what you do. Deliver on time, play to your own strengths, and let others help you with your weaker areas.
Build a good reputation through your work, attitude, and reliability.
If at first you don’t succeed, hang in there!
Dare to do it and have nerves of steel, determination, adaptability, and flexibility. Maintain a sense of adventure!
After taking a few questions from the audience, Ms. Mühlhofer and a smaller group of students and faculty members then moved to the Casa Fleming living room to enjoy some refreshments and continue the conversation in a more relaxed environment.
Over the course of her two days on campus, Ms. Mühlhofer expanded on her story and answered more questions from students through her visits to four of Ms. Amy Hutchison’s 10th-grade Health and Physical Education classes, three of Mr. Noah Clarke’s AP Economics classes, and a Middle School assembly. She capped her trip with a dinner in Montagnola with student and faculty members of the TASIS Speaker Series Committee.
Dr. Chris Love, who has chaired the Speaker Series Committee since 2019, noted that Ms. Mühlhofer’s message resonated with today’s TASIS students.
“In her keynote, class visits, and many encounters with our students, Veronika told the story of how her passion for sports inspired a gratifying and successful career,” he said. “She recounted to our senior class the ways her years at TASIS were fundamental to the activities that have defined her education at Stanford and her career as CEO of Millionsports, CEO of Swiss Rugby Union, and key contributor to multiple Olympic Games, including the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics.”
Ms. Mühlhofer, who was featured in the 2022 issue of TASIS Today, has not been a stranger to Lugano or TASIS since her graduation, as her family still has a home in Lugano. But she noted that there was something quite different about this visit.
“Being here for two intense days and getting a chance to visit classes and talk to a lot of students (and teachers) more in depth was a unique experience I haven’t had since I graduated 26 years ago,” she said. “I found the students to be wonderfully engaged, interested, smart young people, and it was such a pleasure to get to know some of them. Likewise, the current teachers are as dedicated, competent, and devoted as I remember my teachers being back when I was in TASIS.”
Ms. Mühlhofer observed that the TASIS campus has changed a great deal since she was a student, as she graduated before any of the major construction projects were even started. She noted that in her day, there was no MCF Library, Palestra, Palmer Cultural Center, Şahenk Fine Arts Center, or Campo Science Center; the library and theater were in Hadsall; the neighbor’s sheep grazed where the current parking lot is; Lanterna and the rest of the hillside buildings weren’t even conceived yet; and “The Bubble” served as all-purpose gym and assembly hall.
But despite these physical changes, Ms. Mühlhofer maintains that TASIS also hasn’t changed at all.
“And I mean that in all the good ways,” she said. “The TASIS spirit remains very much alive and has even been strengthened by the addition of the beautiful buildings and facilities on campus, the addition of the Elementary School, and the increase in number of students and faculty. I would like to thank TASIS, and in particular Dr. Chris Love and all the students and faculty members who made me feel so welcomed, for giving me a chance to rediscover the beauty of this community.”
TASIS Speaker Series
The TASIS Speaker Series draws from five fundamental elements of the TASIS identity—truth, goodness, beauty, international understanding, and humanitarian action—to provide TASIS students with a signature educational experience.
The TASIS Speaker Series Committee selects four speakers each year who embody the pillars of the program. The Committee strives for a variety of voices, backgrounds, and professions represented in each year’s group but ultimately selects speakers on the basis of their ability to enhance the intellectual and moral experience of the outgoing seniors and the community as a whole.
The 2022–2023 series began with a visit from Energy Vault co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Robert Piconi in October and will continue in March, when New York Times and international bestselling author and retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dan Hampton comes to campus for three days. Distinguished poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, who visited TASIS in 2016 as the inaugural Linda Buchanan Poet in Residence, will close down this year’s lineup when she returns in April.
Although the TASIS Speaker Series focuses on students near the end of their TASIS careers, the program aspires to serve as an educative instrument for the entire division, creating opportunities for all High School students to interact with people and ideas of significance that are concerned with the world beyond the TASIS campus. Students enhance their intellectual experience through discussions, lectures, class visits, and film screenings centered on some combination of truth, goodness, beauty, international understanding, and humanitarian action. Above all else, the program conveys a clear message to students about what the School hopes for and expects from them after they leave TASIS.
The influential program was initially made possible by a CHF 100,000 donation from TASIS parents Michael and Jane Grindfors to The M. Crist Fleming Endowment for International Understanding and Leadership in 2008. It remains an integral part of a TASIS education thanks to ongoing support from the TASIS Board of Directors and the excellent behind-the-scenes work done by a dedicated group of students and faculty members.