May 23, 2024

2024 Spring Commencement: Bill Boyle ’81 and Wendy Sanhai, MBA ’09

University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business Class of 2024 graduates gather at the XFINITY Center. Keynote speakers Bill Boyle ’81 and Wendy Sanhai, MBA ’09, inspired 1,107 undergraduates, 563 business master’s students, 368 MBA students, 12 PhD students, and 24 EMBA students with insights on leveraging technology for positive change and living a fulfilling life.

New graduates of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business heard keynote testimonials on the power of technology as a conduit for positive change and four potential keys to a fulfilling life during commencement exercises on May 22 at the XFINITY Center in College Park. The ceremony recognized 1,107 undergraduate students, 563 business master’s students, 368 MBA students, 12 PhD students and 24 EMBA students.

Bill Boyle ’81: Enacting a Technology-Fueled Future

Bill Boyle
Bill Boyle ’81 addresses the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business graduates, sharing his journey and insights on the transformative power of technology at the commencement ceremony on May 22.

Technological advancements in data storage and transmission helped Bill Boyle ’81 launch a successful career in business. He thinks future advancements will help the Smith School’s class of 2024 positively change the world.

As the undergraduate commencement speaker, Boyle shared his personal journey, contextualizing the evolution of technology through his experience as a business school undergraduate student and later his role in co-founding and operating FiberGate Inc., a Washington, D.C., area provider of dark fiber services, which he sold in 2012.

He recalled the days with one community landline he and his 40 peers shared in the hallway of his Ellicott Hall floor. Several years later came dresser drawer-sized disk drives and minicomputers, followed by fiber optic cables, cloud storage and the ability to command terabytes of data at our fingertips.

Those same advancements in data storage shaped the world by generating “higher demand for faster and more reliable networks, enabling the creation of companies that live completely online,” Boyle said. They also profoundly impacted human interaction and communication by paving the way for social media.

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, the world was equipped to move online. That included the class of 2024, whose students' first steps into their college experience manifested as digital footprints. These students endured a complex and uncertain beginning to this important chapter of their lives. Still, they persisted and now enjoy the ability to convene and celebrate how far they have come.

“I want to say on behalf of every parent, teacher and administrator, this group showed the resilience and the keep-going forward determination that will carry through many of life’s journeys,” said Boyle.

As abundant as the benefits of technological advancements are, so too are the new challenges they bring, Boyle added—challenges that this graduating class will be called upon to solve. For example, humans now enjoy nearly unbridled access to information, but “the challenge becomes finding the right information from so much misinformation.”

“We all have the responsibility to challenge the false information, noise and blatant lies,” he said. “I urge everyone to stand up for the truth, which is not always easy or popular.”

Other long-standing grand challenges remain, including combating climate change, protecting human rights and relieving poverty. However, this class has already seen its resolve tested and demonstrated a “can do” attitude in the face of adversity—an attitude that the world needs more than ever. Therefore, Boyle expressed his hopes that “everyone keeps pushing for positive change.”

“I believe that ‘the one can help move the many,’ in a positive, constructive way that is inclusive of everyone, as we are stronger together as “We the people,” said Boyle. “You can and will create a brighter future for all of us.”

Wendy Sanhai, MBA ’09: Four Pearls of Wisdom for a Fulfilling Life

Wendy Sanhai
Wendy Sanhai, MBA ’09, shares her inspiring journey and the importance of resilience and mentorship with the graduates of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business during the commencement ceremony on May 22.

After completing the countless classes, exams and projects placed before them, commencement graduates have one last big question: Can you live a fulfilling life without regret where you feel empowered to make a difference in the world?

There is no textbook or study guide to help find that answer. But in her remarks as the graduate commencement speaker, Wendy Sanhai, MBA ’09, a Smith School Executive in Residence and senior member of Deloitte's strategic and analytics team, shared her four pearls of wisdom with graduates to help them get a head start in finding their answer.

“These guiding principles helped me through adversity and empowered me to define myself as a victor, not a victim, when facing adversity,” said Sanhai. “I urge you to take them, along with all your other amazing gifts, and conquer the world one ordinary opportunity at a time.”

Here are Sanhai’s four keys to a fulfilling life:

Accepting help is not a weakness. Every graduate has reached this milestone, in part with the help, guidance, and support of others. Sanhai recalled the impact of one of the most challenging and devastating experiences of her life—suddenly losing her husband of almost 22 years in 2011 due to a massive myocardial infarction and becoming a single mother of two young boys. Determined to provide for her family, Sanhai carried on, often not eating or sleeping for days and reluctant to ask others for help.

Eventually, a friend explained that when she refused the help of others, she “was robbing another person of their blessing of service.”

“I realized I needed to be gracious and accept help, and in turn, I had to pay it forward and backward. This, my friends, is the secret to a purposeful life: graciously accepting help but also creating your blessings by serving others,” said Sanhai.

Approach adversity with an attitude of learning. Maintaining an open mind, even when the wisdom and purposes of situations are not immediately apparent, is essential. Time spent complaining is time lost. “Remember, our minds are like parachutes—they work best when open, so be open to life’s lessons,” Sanhai said.

That lesson is one that Sanhai learned a few years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer. The news hit her “like a ton of bricks,” but she reassessed the situation. At that moment in her career, she was an FDA contractor for Deloitte, leading a team that updated the labeling of cancer drugs to help clinicians have accurate information on how to treat their patients. On the review list were two drugs with the potential to save her life. She found purpose in the unique opportunity to turn her adversity into a chance to assist fellow patients.

“How do you overcome these challenges and move forward with grace and resilience?” asked Sanhai. “Like me, you will have battle scars: physical scars, surgical scars, emotional scars and wrinkles and gray hairs too. Consider these your badges of honor.”

Make mentors part of your journey. It doesn’t take many, but be judicious because these are people you will trust with your career and well-being, Sanhai said. Even with a Smith School degree, there is still plenty to learn about life from this point forward. Mentors will be there to help make professional and personal directional changes. “When those forks in the road present themselves, evaluate your options, seek guidance and then make the decision you think is best at the time,” she said.

Turn ordinary into extraordinary. Sanhai drew inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, who famously said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” People cannot expect to always be on the receiving end of extraordinary opportunities or have red carpets rolled out for them. However, they can find fulfillment in seizing each opportunity and day. That fulfillment also manifests in resisting taking shortcuts and standing up and doing the right thing every day, even when it is the most difficult option. “My charge to you is to relentlessly be that positive change you wish to see in this paranoid, deranged, but awesome and beautiful world in which we find ourselves,” Sanhai said.

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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 flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, 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.

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