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Commencement Address 2011

Read Dean William W. Keep’s remarks to the Class of 2011


Good Afternoon and Welcome to Our 2011 Graduating Class, Their Family, and Friends!

Did I mention that according to Businessweek you are graduating from the highest ranked undergraduate business program in New Jersey?

Life passes along one day after the other but some days, like today, stand out as truly exceptional. On this day we stop our usual routine to celebrate the accomplishments of these young men and women and wish them well on the journey ahead.

Before we do that, however, it is important to recognize that success in college happens with the encouragement, support, and challenges from others. I now ask our graduates to stand and join me in thanking your family and friends for supporting you and your faculty for teaching you.

Please be seated.

Your faculty have assured me that each of you are ready to graduate, ready to take on the next challenge. In the past few years you have earned a number of As and a number of Bs. As you are getting ready to go out the door I want to give you five more Bs. These Bs are less about what you have done and more about what you can yet do. Here are my five Bs.

Be Better than Average! It is not that hard. Every student graduating from every business school in the country will be out there trying to start his or her career. While most will certainly achieve some of their goals, that will happen more often for a smaller percentage. In the language of ECON 231, the bell-shaped curve in the real world has a large standard deviation. It isn’t their lack of skills that will make them average; it is their attitude. Decide today not to be average and you will like what happens next.

Be Honest! Honesty builds lasting relationships in business and in our communities. Honesty and integrity are personal values affecting your entire career. But simple honesty will not be enough; you need to mix it with a dose of diplomacy. Bosses, coworkers, and customers do not like to be wrong — even when they are. At times honesty with a sugar coating can be more effective. If you get this right, people will look for opportunities to work with you.

Be Patient (but not too patient)! Some years back a former student emailed me after three months on the job saying he knew more than his boss. I replied, “Don’t tell him. Be Patient.” Another former student was the first woman hired into a sales training program that involved six months of inside sales before moving to outside sales where she could truly begin her career. After eighteen months she emailed me; she was still in inside sales. Her supervisor said he couldn’t afford to lose her. I told her to make an appointment with the Vice President of Marketing and Sales and to sell herself. She was promoted within sixty days. Find the balance between patience and impatience.

Be Generous! You will have multiple opportunities to be generous to others, or not. These will range from acts of kindness to people you do not know – like those who have experienced earthquakes or killer tornadoes – to those who work down the hall or at the front desk. Most acts of generosity involve only a little time and no money. These small acts show that you are not the only person whose life matters. You will be surprised how often generosity to others finds its way back in the form of support and encouragement for you.

Finally, Be Your Own Best Friend! Even with above average work, honesty, patience, and generosity things will not always go your way. Some paths that you thought would be opened to you will close; some people you thought you could trust will prove to be not trustworthy. There will be disappointment. Your friends and family will be supportive but they have their own problems. Each morning, every day of your life you will see the same person in the mirror. Celebrate that person, and have the confidence to know that he or she is capable of many wonderful things.

Adopt these five Bs and your career will offer up many interesting and rewarding experiences.

Now I would like to bring to the podium one of two students.

John Wintermute was selected from a pool of well-qualified students recommended by the faculty to speak as a representative of the graduating class. John is a Management major with a 3.79 GPA. He was Vice President of Beta Gamma Sigma, a founder of the School’s CEO Mentoring program, and served as the SGA Representative to the Student Finance Board. This fall he will attend Seaton Hall Law School. John Wintermute.