Love School of Business graduate students advised to view success as a team sport

Students in the Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Accounting, Master of Science in Business Analytics and Master of Science in Management programs celebrated their achievements during a Commencement ceremony May 18 in Alumni Gym.

PHOTO GALLERY: Love School of Business graduate programs

As they embark on the next steps in their personal and professional journeys, Kingsdown CEO Frank Hood encouraged students graduating from the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business master’s programs to cherish the connections they forged during their years of study at Elon.

During his Commencement address Tuesday evening, Hood reflected on his own experience navigating his mattress manufacturing business through the pandemic. He said his greatest asset in withstanding such an unprecedented challenge was the people around him, much like the graduates supported each other in reaching this significant milestone.

“You have a set of experiences and learnings that are much richer than any class coming before you,” Hood said. “They are going to inform every step you take for the rest of your life. The combination of all these experiences, the fellowship you have with your friends here, your advisors, your professors, everyone, these experiences will forever be part of your unique body of work.”

A year ago, students in the Class of 2021 were finishing their semester in remote learning as the university and the world grappled with how to adapt to COVID-19. At Tuesday’s ceremony, graduates from the Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Accounting, Master of Science in Business Analytics and Master of Science in Management programs celebrated their achievements together in Alumni Gym, surrounded by a limited number of friends and family.

MBA Class of 2021 member Amanda Parrish delivering her remarks during Commencement.

MBA student Amanda Parrish, whose peers selected her to speak on behalf of the class, remarked on how quickly the Class of 2021 formed a community when they began their studies. That foundation, she said, helped them weather the storm of the past year. Even amid additional family responsibilities during a daunting time, the graduates remained committed to their studies and emerged more resilient and connected than ever.

“Take a little of the magic that we have created as a community, as a graduating class, and bring it with you wherever you go, and wherever you lead,” Parrish said. “Teach others how to form team and community the way we did. As we slowly return to normal, let us return to enhanced relationships and stronger, deeper connections.”

In his address, Hood advised the graduates to let their education and expertise guide them in what he calls a “contemporary context,” applying their history of learning in a specific time, place and situation. The “contemporary context” he found his business in last year was one he said he never could have imagined, one that resulted in some of the most difficult decisions of his career. Sales plummeted and supply chains ground to a halt. The company swept its bank revolver, stopped spending and temporarily laid off 589 of its 600 employees.

“But as bad as it was and sometimes still is, the events of the pandemic brought out some of our best traits – empathy, compassion, adaptability and, for many, an increased resolve to do good,” Hood said.

The company leaned on its relationships with industry colleagues and local and state governments and began sharing information more directly with suppliers and customers. With strength in numbers, they worked in partnership to solve their collective problems. Kingsdown was deemed an essential manufacturer and slowly brought employees back as customers returned and demand increased.

Kingsdown CEO Frank Hood delivering his remarks during Commencement.

“I have been reminded that the old proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ was never more true,” Hood said. “We all found ourselves accommodating and adapting.”

Learning to thrive in the “contemporary context” of a post-pandemic world was not something any one person at the company could have achieved alone, Hood said. He urged graduates to be humble and acknowledge they can be the smartest person in the room by saying, “I’m not the smartest person in the room.”

“If I hadn’t fully embraced my ignorance and recognized that the survival of our company depended on all of us working together, I may have never reached out and relied so heavily on my executive team, my friends, industry colleagues or even this university,” Hood said. “We would have likely failed if we hadn’t built a coalition. Rarely do the best solutions come to individuals in a vacuum. You’ll find in your career that success is team sport.”

Hood emphasize that like with any team, each person in a business environment has their own role to play in the group’s success. Each person has a “superpower” no matter what they studied or what their title is.

“One thing that you have, and it is yours alone, is you,” Hood said. “You’re unique. You have your own set of learnings and sensibilities that are uniquely yours. Never think that you can’t succeed at anything you commit yourself to. Don’t go it alone, work hard and don’t give up on your mission.”

In her charge to the graduates, President Connie Ledoux Book praised them as strong and resilient people poised to make a profound difference in the world, and she said she hoped they will carry Elon’s values with them wherever they go from here.

“Today, I charge each of you, as new Elon graduates, to use your knowledge and freedom as the university seal behind me depicts – Numen Lumen, knowledge and light,” Book said. “Bring the light into the world – the light we know the world needs.”

Candidates for the Master of Business Administration Degree

Alisha Agemy

James Alexander Alley

Bennett McLean Allred

Kaila Diana Baccas

Joshua Joseph Barrett

Brianne Amelia Boldrin

Kerry Anne Branon

Jeannine Allison Bryan

William James Burpitt

Jeanette Deloris Cox

Gerardo Jose Del Valle

Jordan Derrell Dollerson

Andrea L. Doughty

Stephen Edward Fishler

Jalen Greene

Elenor Totten Haith

Christian Martin Harris

Bryan Edward Howard

Cole Robinson Hyman

Aysha E. Johnson

Surender Kumar

Natalie Jeanne Labonge

Sara Nicole Palazzolo Langham

Gabriel Arturo Leon Miranda

Katherine Norris Leovic

Kelsey Elizabeth Long

Ryan Michael Lumbattis

Morgan Concetta Miano

Alexa Rose Nemeth

Myles C. Owens IV

Kelsey Lane Pack

Amanda Jane Parrish

Suzanne Marie Patinella

Whytney Leigh Pickens

Angela Lee Post

Matthew Cary Nobles Robertson

Michelle Janae Scott

Marcus Jerome Sheffield

Brittany Danielle Spencer

Elizabeth Grace Rabe Steward

Eric Storsved

Jasmine Thompson Suitt

Carl Dean Tipton

Keianne-Claressa Dayrel Taylor-Walker

Brianna Tucker

Shelby Wellmon

Candidates for the Master of Science in Accounting Degree

Thomas Joseph Ashburn

Jason David Baird

Megan Claire Bargstedt

Jonathan Connolly

Ethan Edelson

Emily Fray

Jeffrey Gilbert

William Graham

Jacey Christine Katch

Alexander Leary

Aren Paul Marfey

Mark McGuire

Ryan Matthew O’Malley

Austin E. Rothfeder

Cameron Ryan

Alexa Smith

Dylan Mark Tuttle

Candidates for the Master of Science in Business Analytics Degree

Melissa Helena Anastasakis

Julianne Grace Bruno

Allie Blythe Creekmuir

Sofia Edo

Annie El Bascha Maradiaga

Akram El Sallaly

Chandler Tron Estep

Matthew John Garofoli

Travish Montrai Hicks

David Chandler Stephens

Abigail Kathryn Wollman

Candidates for the Master of Science in Management Degree

Roselee Papandrea Taylor

Keren Ruth Rivas