Elon holds 122nd Commencement exercises
Steve Schuckenbrock '82, president of Dell Services, asks the Class of 2012 in a keynote address to “commit to character” in their lives.
The Class of 2012 represents a shift from the “me” generation of yesterday to the “we” generation of today, and according to the president of Dell Services, a 1982 alumnus of Elon University, graduates will find success in life no matter the paths they take so long as they embrace the higher calling of being accountable for their society and taking great pride in what they do.
Stephen "Steve" F. Schuckenbrock, a top executive in one of the world's leading computer and technology services companies, offered that thought and more on May 19 before university leaders conferred 1,117 bachelor’s degrees in the 122nd undergraduate Commencement exercises at Elon University.
Before they received their diplomas, graduates listened to the brief remarks from several speakers that concluded with Schuckenbrock’s Commencement address, titled “Destined for Greatness.”
Though one of the university’s most accomplished alumni, Schuckenbrock himself had never been a part of a Commencement program. In a rush to begin his career in the summer of 1982, he left Elon before graduation, choosing instead to receive his degree in the mail.
Yet the parallels in his life to what the Elon University Class of 2012 has experienced are uncanny. In the fall of 1978, as a freshman on campus, the Middle East was suffering through turbulent times, war raged in Afghanistan, the economy was in turmoil and an energy crisis created much anxiety.
“Every once in a while a period of unrest and anxiousness gives rise to unprecedented ingenuity. This is one of those times and like before, new solutions are required,” Schuckenbrock said. “You have been exposed to intense global realities, unprecedented social collaboration through the internet and a tremendous education. Therefore, you are better equipped to embrace the opportunity than any generation before you.
Schuckenbrock outlined five attributes that are required of success in life, a list he dubbed “the five C’s:” Convergence, critical thinking, character, conviction and courage. Using the analogy of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, Schuckenbrock said it is imperative for graduates to surround themselves with good people, to “converge” ideas that lead to positive results.
That’s not all it takes.
“Convergence is crucial but insufficient by itself. Critical thinking is necessary to enable real breakthrough,” Schuckenbrock said. “Whether you realize it or not, you are trained to be critical thinkers. The liberal arts foundation you have obtained at Elon provides you with dexterity to open yourself to new ideas and examine problems through a critical lens.”
However, true greatness requires the combination of character, conviction and courage, he said, things “that can never be faked.” Such attributes will help graduates rise to the calling of their generation.”
“Commit to character, stay convicted to your cause and have the courage to weather the inevitable storms. You will make many mistakes … how you own them and rebound from them will define your success,” Schuckenbrock said. “The ‘me’ generation has to give way to the ‘we’ generation. The U.S. will not be in a position to gift things to you … we will need to be ambassadors of peace and convergence.
“While the United States certainly faces a challenging environment, we are still the main source of innovation in the world,” he continued. “Other countries face their own challenges including social unrest, suppressed freedoms and over-burdening debts. But our technological prowess and entrepreneurialism will continue to grow in importance and will be a major advantage for your generation—each of you can capitalize on this.”
Recipient of the 2010 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award, Schuckenbrock has spent nearly three decades as a dynamic executive in the IT field. In 2006, Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell, Inc., handpicked Schuckenbrock to help lead the reorganization of the company. As then-CIO and senior vice president of global services, Schuckenbrock facilitated Dell’s transition from a hardware producer to a business solutions company.
His success was rewarded in 2009, when he was promoted to president of Dell Global Large Enterprise, through which he managed nearly a third of Dell’s business and focuses on the company’s largest corporate customers.
An outstanding scholar-athlete at Elon, Schuckenbrock played on the golf team and graduated in 1982 at the top of his class, majoring in business administration and mathematics. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Becky, and their five children.
Graduates also heard from Class of 2012 President Taylor Martin and from Tracey Helton Lewis ’93, president of the Elon Black Alumni Network, who encouraged students to network and connect with fellow Elon alumni. She also recommended that graduates visit campus. “There’s a special feeling that you get when you’re here at Elon,” Lewis said.
Martin briefly thanked his mother for all that she did to help him through life before focusing his remarks on his classmates.
“This is not the end. All of us will go out to do great things,” he said. “We should never forget the school from which we came or the relationships we created while here.”
He then likened the years ahead to those experienced by close relatives.
“I look forward to coming back to reunions and being introduced to the loves of your lives. I look forward to being invited to weddings, and I look forward to opening the mail to see the announcements of your first-born children,” he said. “We’re family now, and that’s what family does.”
In his charge to graduates to conclude the ceremony, Elon University President Leo M. Lambert encouraged graduates to use their education as a force for good in the world.
“You have all been prepared in the great liberal arts tradition to possess incredibly important and useful skills, such as writing, research, analysis, persuasion, and critical thinking,” Lambert said. “You’ve combined these with strong majors and experiences in the world through international study, community engagement, and leadership challenges that have positioned you for success. And today, of all days, you should be proud of your success and your competence.”
He then asked graduates to remember the virtue of humility in all that they do with their lives, citing how fortunate they are compared to the world’s overall population to have a degree from a liberal arts institution.
“I hope that privilege keeps you feeling humble and mindful of your responsibility to others in the wider world lacking food, basic health care, peace, justice, and even the barest opportunity to create a better world for their kids. Never be afraid to reach out to others to help them create meaningful and positive change in their lives. This is what your Elon education compels you to do.”
Lambert shared with graduates the meaning behind a young oak sapling that each member of the Class of 2012 received as a gift from the Office of Alumni Engagement following the ceremony. “Plant your young tree, and let it serve as a reminder that you have been prepared by your education to be a strong force for good in the world,” he said. “Remember too that we are the Phoenix. We have faith in the promise of renewal and of new beginnings. God bless and God speed.
“Long live Elon!”