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Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank '96 Speaks at Smith Commencement, May 22, 2005

May 22, 2005
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The Smith School offers congratulations to the 770 undergraduate, 300 MBA/MS, 25 Executive MBA, and 10 PhD new degree holders who graduated on May 22, 2005. 

plankKevin Plank '96, founder and CEO of Under Armour Performance Apparel, delivered an inspiring keynote address to a packed Comcast Center. "I'm appreciative of the life and business skills that UM taught me," he began. Drawing on his experience as a football player at Maryland and his keen entrepreneurial instinct, Plank recounted his vision and roadmap to "creating the world's greatest football undershirt."

While still in school pursuing his bachelor's degree in marketing and playing football, Plank came up with the idea for a new kind of t-shirt -- a unique microfiber sports shirt -- in a market that no one had addressed and launched Under Armour. Not thwarted by negative feedback from "95 percent" of the business people who didn't think he could compete against the big footwear companies, he took his seven t-shirt prototypes right to the athletes and received positive feedback.

Within the year 12 college teams and 10 NFL teams were wearing Under Armour. In 1996 Under Armour had about $17,000 in sales, said Plank. The company has grown dramatically since then and in 2004 sales soared to $206 million. The company is an official supplier to Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, USA Baseball, the U.S. Ski Team and numerous NFL teams and division I-A college football teams.

grads2Plank encouraged students to keep in touch with the University of Maryland after graduation, stressing how he relied on his friends from UM and family as Under Armour got off the ground. For the first two years, he ran his business out of his grandmother's house in Georgetown with one business partner he met in school. Now, Under Armour's international headquarters are in Baltimore and they have 500 employees.

He offered three key points for creating a good business plan, and said he runs his business like a sports team. First, he said, define your roadmap. "Good opportunities won't come to you, you must build a roadmap." Second, make a decision. The ability to make decisions is what matters, he stressed. And third, execution.

"All the good ideas have not been taken," said Plank. Find what you are good at and have a passion and conviction for, and create a team that has strengths where your weaknesses lie. "Don't be afraid to right the course," he said if you aren't happy where you are going.

Building on the Under Armour motto, he asked students to give back to UM. "Protect this house," he concluded. "This is our school, our house." 

schneiderAndrew Schneider delivered the graduate student address, giving the audience a better understanding of the Smith School's tag line "Leaders for the Digital Economy." [Transcript]

"As graduates, we stand not only at the starting gate of a new era in our own lives, nor just at the dawn of a new century, but also upon the beginning of a new age," said Schneider. "An age in which the rigid and hierarchical systems of the last century -- whether political, cultural, scientific or economic -- are quickly being replaced by an integration of systems across disciplines and borders in which information, people, and movements are traveling at speeds and rates of adoption unimaginable even a generation ago. This will be, if you will, a digital age."

grads1He encouraged students to "pick something. A field, an interest. Let it drive you. If it feels meaningful, fulfilling and significant, dig deeper. If it feels wrong or shallow, stop and try something else. Trying and failing is surely the noble path in comparison to sticking to the safe harbors. The opportunities that we have created for ourselves should not, indeed, can not be squandered."

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Schneider came to the Smith School with an impressive background in the public sector, having served as assistant to the chief domestic policy advisor to the Vice President of the United States in the White House. He went on to positions in the United States Embassy in Macedonia and the American Chamber of Commerce in Macedonia.  

Brian Bartlett delivered the undergraduate student address. He said that he has seen Smith and UM grow during his years here - sports and academics. Smith graduates are the leaders of the UM class of 2005. "It is our job to live up to the hype," he said. "We are even better prepared than they think."

gradsBrian Bartlett graduated Summa Cum Laude with a perfect grade point average of 4.0 received a Bachelors degree in finance and international business from the Smith School, and a Bachelors degree in economics from the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences. He became very involved in the UM community, serving as president of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, president and player on the Maryland Men's Ice Hockey team, and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the Finance, Banking and Investment Society, and the Economics Association of Maryland. He also spent a semester in Australia studying at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

▓ Photos and story by Alissa Arford-Leyl, Office of Marketing Communications

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.