On Sunday, May 20, 2012, thousands gathered in the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland for the commencement ceremony of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Over 1,000 students graduated with BS, MBA, executive MBA, MS, and PhD degrees.
Keynote Speaker Michael Ward, Chairman and CEO of CSX
The keynote speaker was Michael Ward, chairman and CEO of CSX, one of the nation's premier transportation and logistics companies. Ward received his bachelor’s degree in business from the Smith School in 1972. Unsure exactly what he wanted to do upon graduation, he took a chance and applied to Harvard, eventually graduating from the institution with his MBA.
Ward then moved back to Baltimore, Md., to be near his family. “I was hired by a railroad company that today is CSX,” he said. “I have been blessed with a wonderful 35-year career there. I have worked in finance, sales and marketing, and operations over the years.”
Ward offered several pieces of advice to graduates, with the most important being to never sacrifice your personal integrity at any cost or for any benefit. “Personal integrity is the most important asset you possess,” he said. “It is invaluable and almost impossible to regain if you lose it. You need a strong moral compass to guide you through life’s inevitable tough decisions,” he said.
He urged grads to find an organization that is the right fit as far as morals, values, purpose, and people. “Do you like the people you will be working with?” he asked. “You’d better, because you will spend more time with them than any other single activity you engage in – sleeping, family, community activities, or recreation.”
He also addressed the issue of switching jobs every few years. “At the beginning of your career, when you are trying to find the right organization for you, it is fine to change jobs,” he said. “However, I must tell you that when I receive a résumé of an individual who changes jobs every three-to-four years, it goes right in the trash can. I believe that to become a true expert and really impact your chosen field of endeavor you need to stick with it.”
To be an effective leader, he encouraged grads to surround themselves with the smartest, team-oriented people they can find and ensure diversity of thought, style and experience while resisting the urge to micromanage – and always give credit for successes when due.
“Finally, as your life progresses, one of the hardest things for you to envision now, but critical, is to find your purpose,” he said. “What do you want to accomplish in your short time on this planet? It took me years, actually decades, to find mine – but I now have! My purpose is to make a positive difference in the lives of others, especially young people who might not otherwise have an opportunity to succeed. Fortunately, I am in a position to do so.”
Student Speakers Katie Breen and “June” Natthida Kiattiwong
Undergraduate student speaker Katie Breen talked about “fear” and how the financial meltdown impacted learning in the classroom for her classmates. “Some of the most important lessons we learned were from the headlines,” she said. “Smith has taught us to embrace fear, use fear and learn from fear.”
The MBA student speaker was “June” Natthida Kiattiwong and she urged grads to step out of their comfort zones. “A comfort zone makes us feel good about who we are and what we know. However, it also confines us,” she said. “If we want to move forward, we need to step outside of the familiar. If I have learned anything from the Smith Experience, it is that we learn the most when we are outside of our comfort zones.”
Congratulations, Class of 2012!
“Every member of the Smith community is very proud of your achievements,” said Dean G. “Anand” Anandalingam to the graduates. “We wish you well on the journey ahead, and I look forward to hearing many good reports of your successes in the years to come.”
This is the last year that Pat Cleveland will serve as associate dean for undergraduate programs and she gave a special address to the students at the closing of the ceremony. Dean Anand said, “During her tenure, Smith has been consistently ranked as one of the top business programs in the country. Pat has been a tireless advocate and champion for our undergraduate students, and many of you here tonight experienced her enthusiasm and her commitment to ‘her kids.’”
Cleveland, beaming, took the podium and echoed her familiar mantra to the students, advising them, “The world belongs to those who show up.” Further encouraging the students as they enter a difficult economy, she said, “There’s a lot going on out there, but in times of peril are times of great opportunity. And I know you will go out there and take hold and right the ship.”
Congratulations to all members of the class of 2012!
Special congratulations to the following graduates who received their doctoral degrees:
- Zachary Arens
- Rodrigo Britto
- Crystal Farh
- Wei Guo
- Jian-Yu Ke
- Daniel Malter
- Payal Nangia Sharma
- Xiang Wan, Amanda Wilford, Anastasiya Zavyalova
- Lei Zhang
- Wenjie Zhu
National Anthem Performers:
- Jordan Savitsky (Smith senior)
- Daniel Eisenberg (psych major)
- David Lipsitz
- Joshua Sauer (psych major)
Alissa Arford, Office of Marketing Communications