2008 Commencement Remarks

Good afternoon.  I welcome the family and friends of our graduates, the members of our faculty and administrative staff, and, of course, our most honored guests-our graduating students.  We are here to congratulate you and to celebrate your achievements.

We are the largest major and the newest school at the College of W&M.  In fact, this year we celebrate our fortieth anniversary as W&M's School of Business, now Mason School of Business.  The inaugural dean of the W&M business school, Charlie Quittmeyer, wrote an excellent history of business education at his, my, and now your alma mater and the facts I am about to cite come from his research.

There was actually a School of Business at W&M before 1968.  The School of Finance and Business Administration was begun at W&M in 1919.  Unfortunately, the first Business School here was short-lived; it was dissolved fifteen years afterward in 1934.  That unenlightened move was partially corrected seven years later in 1941 when Business was reinstated but as a Department.  By 1950, with the large number of WWII veterans returning to college sponsored by the G.I. Bill, fully half of the male students at W&M majored in either business or economics, most of them in business.  The MBA degree program was launched at W&M in 1966 and the Department of Business Administration became the School of Business Administration in February, 1968.  Three years later in 1971 the new school initiated the Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

Why am I sharing what must seem to you like ancient history?  Because it is the fortieth anniversary of the second incarnation of our business school and a celebration of our progress seems most appropriate.  In the past few decades we have added three new business majors; we have created a thriving Executive MBA program; a top-notch Master of Accounting program, and we have extended our reach down the Peninsula with our Flex MBA Program.  Soon we will occupy the newest and the most magnificent academic building to grace this lovely and historic campus since the Wren Building was built over three centuries ago.  I hereby invite all of you to the Grand Opening of Alan B. Miller Hall during the third weekend in September 2009. 

Mostly, however, I review our history because I want to remind all of us of the rich tradition we are continuing.  We are all privileged to stand on the shoulders of Dean Quittmeyer without whose vision and sacrifice we might not be here this afternoon.  Similarly, no matter what you do or where you go you will be standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before and whose pioneering and sacrificial efforts have at least in part created the opportunity you will enjoy.  Be grateful.  Gratitude is a seasoning that in my experience is far too parsimoniously applied in life.  We would all be better served were we to allow gratitude to flavor our thoughts, infuse our moods, and inspire our actions.  Gratitude induces its own form of humility and humility so spawned can stand side-by-side with the recognition and enjoyment of great personal achievement such as that which we celebrate here today. 

People can be humbled; they can be honored; they can have their reputations stolen or restored, but no one can or will make you grateful.  It is something you must plant, nourish, and cherish within yourself.  If you do, I can assure you that your life will be richer, sweeter, and more meaningful.    

Already you have achieved much in life.  As you leave this place to pursue your next great adventure, I want you to know and remember that you will always be welcome here.  We are forever linked by this experience and by this place.