Commitment in professional and personal life

“We say to all of you, to our friends and our families, to our future and everything that seeks to block it, our destiny is greatness.”

This year’s incredible Commencement speech was given by Nick Christian, one of PhilaU’s star scholar athletes who is moving to Florida to begin his career with Comcast. In my 21 years in higher education, this was the first time I saw a student speaker receive a standing ovation for his or her remarks at a commencement.

What Nick emphasized in his speech, and what I discussed in my own Commencement remarks, was the importance of commitment. I discussed commitment in life as represented by five ideas: brushing your teeth, shining your shoes, being on time for every appointment, working hard, and believing in something greater than yourself. The first four are just metaphors, but they reflect PhilaU’s belief in the importance of dedicating oneself to a purposeful life. This purpose comes partially from investing time, energy, and passion in a career that creates value for your community and yourself. At PhilaU, we prepare students for those careers by giving them real-world experience, problem finding skills, a focus on solutions, and a desire to improve the human condition. A PhilaU education both prepares students to be professionals in the field of their choice and empowers them to be leaders.

Aside from a commitment to work, we also have a commitment to maintaining the strong bonds of friends and family, who are there for us when we most need support and love. Last Thursday night, at our Board of Trustees educational event, we were thrilled to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of David and Lillian Rea. David is a PhilaU trustee and a very dear friend. We presented them with a textile made by Marah Light ’14, who received a B.S. in Textile Design. It was a jacquard design inspired by the symbiotic relationship between flora and fauna, and the gold in the design was a fitting tribute to David and Lillian’s “golden anniversary.”

As president of Philadelphia University, I am always so honored to be a part of the PhilaU family and partake in milestone events such as these, and I am grateful for all I have learned and experienced as part of this family. I wake up each day excited to see what wonderful things will be happening next.

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Something more important than yourself

On Saturday, May 17, 2014, the Class of 2014 graduated from Philadelphia University at the Mann Center for Performing Arts. I shared words of advice with the class at the beginning of the ceremony, and I wanted to share them here as well for everyone to read and ponder.

Each year I reveal the secrets of success to the incoming first year students. I sometimes repeat this advice to students along the way in their careers at Philadelphia University. I’d like to remind you of these secrets… and at the end of my brief remarks add one more to seal the deal.

Remember, you have to do these 4 things, plus the graduation day fifth secret, every day.
• Brush your teeth.
• Shine your shoes.
• Be on time for every meeting and appointment.
• Work hard.

They are, of course, metaphors for a disciplined and committed life. All four of these tasks are within your control. Indeed, you don’t need a university education to do these things.

But in a matter of moments you will be university graduates. These secrets to success are now fueled by an ability to think deeply, seek opportunity, solve problems and act decisively.

At Philadelphia University we are obsessed with preparing you to be professionals in the field of your passion and empower you to be leaders in your communities…insisting that you ask the probing questions:
• Is what I am doing professionally desirable, feasible and valuable for the people I serve?

When you think deeply and act decisively, you become a “critical doer”… but you also risk failure, for there is no perfect plan.

When you leave PhilaU, I believe you will find that most people around you will hesitate, afraid of the risks. But the greater risk is leading a boring life filled with hesitation and second guessing.

You know how to build and use knowledge, you are decisive and creative. Don’t waste time on mediocrity…create greatness.

Ah yes, the fifth secret to success. It is my personal favorite and the first among equals:
Believe in something more important than yourself. It will force you to be humble especially when you achieve great things. It will calm you when life chaotically swirls around you and it will make you grateful for the love and support of family, friends and colleagues during your journey.

Class of 2014… congratulations!

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The Academy for Municipal Innovation’s first graduating class

Earlier this evening, the first class of the Academy for Municipal Innovation graduated in the DEC Forum. The Academy, a collaboration between the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia University, is an educational endeavor designed to educate municipal employees about innovation strategies that they will be able to apply to their professional work, aiding Mayor Nutter’s commitment to municipal innovation and progress. Below are the remarks I gave to the graduating class.

I am humbled to stand before the servant leaders of Philadelphia’s municipal government. Your pioneering effort to learn and implement the craft of innovation and apply it to the governance of the City of Philadelphia inaugurates a new meaning of public employee.

Philadelphia University (your namesake institution of higher learning) believes that innovation is no longer a competitive advantage, but rather it is a required core competency for individuals and organizations.

For too long, society has seen innovation as the purview of the private sector. Worse yet, society has believed it should be practiced only via the development of technology, and maybe just in choice regions like Silicon Valley and Boston’s 128 corridor.

Over the last 8 weeks you have shattered that false perception by taking the challenge to think and act differently. You are armed with the intellectual skills and tools to be “critical doers” for the common good.

It is a noble cause. More important… deep thought, decisive action and innovative solutions are a necessity if our great cities are to prosper.

We are fortunate to have a city leadership committed to bold action around innovation and change combined with Philadelphia University’s distinctive approach to innovation education.

With your leadership comes responsibility.

As qualified and supported agents of change, Mayor Nutter and his team have worked to make Philadelphia a model for innovation; sustainability; and industry, academic and government collaboration. And they have empowered you.

The results, big and small, will be chronicled and this effort will flourish… if you have the stamina to take the challenge.

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