MBA candidates receive degrees in evening ceremony
As they embark on their careers as newly minted alumni, the men and women who received MBA degrees from Elon University on May 20, 2011, received several pieces of advice - “never, ever, ever stop learning” and “get involved in your community” - gleaned from the career of the man who leads the largest apparel company in the world.
Eric C. Wiseman, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Greensboro, N.C.-based VF Corporation, delivered the keynote address to graduate students in Whitley Auditorium on Friday evening in a Commencement ceremony attended by families and friends who witnessed the end of an academic journey that took up to three years to complete.
Wiseman cited five lessons from his professional experiences that he said would serve students well.
Never stop learning. “I have never been the smartest guy in the room in any job I’ve had. Never. But I have a really nifty toolbox … and I use those tools regularly,” he said. “Be thoughtful about your careers, about who you can learn from and what experiences you can learn from.”
Take risks with your careers. “You need to be really thoughtful about taking risks with someone else’s business and someone else’s money, but with your personal careers, you can take big risks.”
Delegate problems and focus energy on creating opportunities. “Fixing problems is necessary, but it’s a reaction to a situation that probably somebody else created. Do I still spend time on problems? You bet I do. But I’m very, very selective about the ones I get involved with. I delegate all the others.”
Ignore the “flawed” idea of career and personal “balance” and simply weigh how priorities effect other elements of life. Wiseman said that the concept of a balanced life implies harmonious bliss among things that are important to you and you can do equally well. That’s not possible, he said, and admitted he wasn’t always good at balancing work and family to advance to where he is today.
Give something back to your community. “Start right away. Get involved in your community. Get involved in your church. Get involved with Elon University,” he said. “In addition to being a great thing to do, it’s going to improve your personal and professional development.”
Wiseman guides the company behind Wrangler, Nautica, JanSport and other premiere apparel brands. Immediately prior to being named CEO in January 2008, he served as president and chief operating officer from and was responsible for VF's global business and the corporation's day-to-day operations. Wiseman holds a bachelor's degree in business and an MBA from Wake Forest University, and he serves on the board of directors for CIGNA Corporation and the board of visitors of Wake Forest University's Babcock Graduate School of Management.
His remarks were preceded with observations from an MBA candidate selected by his peers to offer the student address.
Martin “Marty” Blevins drew on personal stories with a hint of playful self-deprecation and sparked audience laughter with a tale of taking the GMAT exam required of all applicants. He also lauded the Elon University MBA faculty “for being real people with real passions, and showing that to us.”
Nor did he leave out his family, and the families of his peers, who supported the group through years of work, study and family commitments that would culminate moments later with the conferral of their degrees. He said the shared experience of working together for years has forged professional relationships and, perhaps more importantly, friendships.
“Those who can, be mentors and friends for those coming along behind us. And find some way to keep in touch,” Blevins said. “We’ve worked hard to build a community. We need each other at this point.”
He concluded by cautioning his classmates to be selective with the use of the information. “In this world we’re in right now, information comes from all over the place,” he said. “Knowledge is easy to come by. Wisdom is hard.”
Both Blevins and Wiseman made an impact on their audience.
“Marty’s speech really hit home,” said Travis Upton, a 2011 graduate from Whitsett, N.C., who works for Penn National Insurance. “This is a big thing for the family, being away as much as I have.”
Said Betty Rouse, of Greensboro, N.C., and an employee of Kayser-Roth: “This (degree) means options. It means that things not possible before are now options. (Wiseman) said it best. It’s a tool in the toolbox, and it shows you have the tenacity to stay with something until it’s done.”
The 38 degrees conferred by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert were presented by Elon Provost Steven House and by professor Bill Burpitt, chair of the MBA program.
Before his charge to graduates, Lambert acknowledged Mary Gowan, who steps down next month after serving as dean of the Love School of Business for four years. “The Love School has made many important advances under Dean Gowan’s leadership and the school’s national stature has assuredly increased,” he said. “We look forward to her continued contributions to Elon as a full professor.”
Turning to the MBA candidates, the president reminded those standing before him that their character will help determine their destiny.
“As alumni of Elon University and among the most highly educated people on the planet, you are charged to carry one light into the word with you—Lumen and Numen—fused, inseparable,” Lambert said, citing the university’s Latin motto for “intellectual light” and “spiritual light,” respectively. “Knowledge and character, fused. Shining intellect and strong guiding ethical and moral codes, seamlessly connected. Intellectual light and spiritual light for a world requiring your leadership.
“So go forth and shine. Long live Elon!”
Candidates for the Master of Business Administration Degree
Jonathan Daniel Aleshire
Erin Victoria Andrews
Jill Catherine Arnold
Joseph Daniel Barnett
Martin Clay Blevins
Sarah Elizabeth Canter
Alexander Jin Choi
Joshua Shawn Daniel
Melody Bays Davis
Bethany Shea Delk
Lubna Burhan Ghanayem
Timothy Holman Hall
Curtis Edward Heinsohn
Matthew Thomas Illman
Deborah Karen John
Brian Keith Jones
Jacob Erlin Kaiser
Michael Adam Levy
Brian Thomas Lopatka
Kelly Wilson Lucas
Mariebeth Louise Banks Marsh
Paul Stanton Marshall
Blair McLeod McCauley
David Douglas Andrew McKay
Michael Thomas Moin
Carol Ann Whitt Mullis
David Christopher Presnell
Adam Lee Rice
Betty Elizabeth Mullins Rouse
Peter Jason Sanders
Michael Eugene Syrylo
Jonathan Michael Thill
Travis Paul Upton
Kathryn Lynn Van Pelt
Stephanie Ross Williams
George Douglas Zachary