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Commencement Address 2010

Read Dean William W. Keep’s remarks to the Class of 2010


Good Afternoon!

It is my great pleasure to be Dean of the School of Business and to be here today to celebrate the success of these young men and women.

Before we do that, however, I would like to ask all of the graduates to stand. (Pause)  Now please join me in thanking your family and friends for supporting you and thanking your faculty for teaching you. Please be seated.

Nothing quite makes the point of how quickly times slips by like a celebration at the end of a journey. I am sure each of you – parent and graduate – can easily recall the start of freshman year and the many events in between. What got us here today, of course, is the ability of each of these young people to set and achieve his or her goal. No doubt there were distractions and disappointments, but there were also celebrations and successes. Each of you have completed your course work and passed many tests. For that you have earned our respect and congratulations.

Before you leave, however, I would like to warn you about one more test coming your way. Each of you will be required to take it, though it will never be written down. You will not always know exactly when you are being tested but nonetheless you will be tested just the same. Fortunately, I know the three questions on this test; and I know the answers.

So here we go…the three-question test administered by every boss you will ever have, and the answers that can shape your career.

Question #1: Why should I listen to you? This question highlights the challenge of competing voices in the workplace. Each of you will have ideas about how to do things better, how to get more customers, how to save money, how to improve a process. In short, each of you will want to be noticed. But so will others. Your boss wants to know why, among all the voices she or he hears, they should listen to you. Whether working individually or as part of a successful team, you will want to be heard.

You answer this question by demonstrating your own unique voice. If all you have to say is what everyone else says, your voice will be lost in the crowd. If, however, your thinking includes, but goes beyond what others say, if you can connect ideas in ways uncommon among your peers, you will be noticed. Whether naturally shy or naturally outgoing, the key is to have a unique voice.

Question #2: Why should I agree with you? After answering the first question correctly you have the attention of your boss. You have proposed a unique idea, analysis, or critique.  Now you will need to defend it. This second question asks you to make your idea credible.

The successful answer draws upon one of the messages conveyed in literally every class you had: do your homework.  First present a concise, well written explanation, then back it up with solid documentation.  Failure to support your idea will actually set you back. Your boss will begin to wonder if your unique voice has any substance. The world of business is a world of uncertainty. No one is expecting ironclad support. They do, however, expect you to tell a story based on fact, logic, and supportable assumptions. Do this and your work will speak for itself.

Finally, Question #3: Why should I trust you? Answering this question well is the key to building relationships that you will value throughout your career. Trust is a funny thing; it is much easier to know when it is absent than when it is present.  Having trust is like having good luck. When people trust you opportunities come your way.

Your consistent good work and personal integrity will successfully answer this last question. The problems of business change with the competitive winds, but the value of consistently good work and personal integrity endure in all environments. You will become the kind of person that others depend on when you do what you say you will do, when you say will do it, with quality and without guile. You can measure the future value of your career by the number of people who come to depend on you.

So there you have it: the questions to your next exam. I have no doubt that you are capable of providing good answers.

Now I would like to introduce you to someone who represents our newest tradition at graduation – our student speaker.

Brian Daly was selected from a pool of well-qualified students recommended by the faculty to speak as a representative of the graduating class. Brian is a Marketing major with a Spanish minor. He graduates with a 3.9 GPA. In addition, he held three campus jobs, this year was selected Student Worker of the Year, and will be attending William & Mary Law School in the fall.  Brian Daly.