UD Winter Commencement features address by alumnus Probst
2:01 p.m., Jan. 7, 2013--The University of Delaware celebrated its newest graduates during Winter Commencement ceremonies held Sunday, Jan. 6, in the Bob Carpenter Center.
With sunny skies outdoors and plenty of smiles and warm fellowship inside, nearly 400 new Blue Hens received graduate, undergraduate and associate in arts degrees.
Partnership for change
UD President Patrick Harker greeted the audience of 3,400, which included families and friends of the Class of 2012, as well as UD faculty, administrators and members of the UD Board of Trustees.
“Today, we celebrate no small accomplishment,” Harker said. “We celebrate the fact that years of hard work and late nights and at least eight panic-inducing rounds of finals have paid off at last.”
After a warm round of applause for the students and those who helped make their day possible, Harker said that having met the challenges of a UD education, the celebrants were well poised to help heal a nation that seems to be ideologically polarized.
“What the prolonged stalemate in Washington, D.C., has set in such stark relief is that ‘my way or the highway’ doesn’t work,” Harker said. “The highway just takes you to the cliff, and fast.”
Harker said that membership in a diverse academic community such as UD should make it apparent that no one person owns the truth or any grand solution.
“We have to come together and seek pragmatic solutions to the problems we face as a people and a nation,” Harker said. “We have to compromise. Trust me, it’s not a dirty word.”
By being part of a UD community where they shared classes and even living spaces with others of different beliefs, Harker said the graduates have had the opportunity to learn the value of compromise and bartering and finding a common ground that benefits all.
“You’ll never escape this need to collaborate and compromise,” Harker said. “Your classmates and dorm-mates today will tomorrow be your coworkers, your neighbors and your fellow citizens in a participatory democracy, your fellow leaders.”
Speaker Lawrence F. Probst III
The tradition of having a UD alumnus deliver the Winter Commencement address continued with Lawrence F. Probst III, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, who urged the graduates not to be apprehensive about leaving UD and moving on to the next phase of their lives.
“When I left here 40 years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” said Probst, who graduated in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. “The video game industry, where I spent the majority of my business career, did not exist.”
While family and friends questioned his sanity for leaving a promising career in consumer products to sell video games, Probst said he was attracted by a group of people he found to be “incredibly bright and compelling.”
“I was 34 years old when I joined Electronic Arts as the vice president of sales, and the rest is history,” Probst said. “Electronic Arts was a struggling startup in 1984, with approximately 40 employees and $8 million in revenues. When I retired in 2007, after 16 years as CEO, we had more than 8,000 employees, sales of more than $3 billion, and a market capitalization of $18 billion.”
Describing his tenure at Electronic Arts as a great adventure, Probst recounted some of the valuable lessons he picked up along the way, including not to be afraid of making mistakes.
“The key is to learn from those mistakes, make sure you don’t repeat them, and move on,” Probst said. “The way that you handle adversity or failure in your career will be the key to your success.”
Probst noted that during his first 18 months as chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, he directed a very unpopular management change that failed miserably and had many seeking his resignation.
“It was not a fun time. In fact, it was the most miserable time in my whole career,” Probst said. “I had two choices -- cut and run, or stand tall and deal with the adversity. I chose the later.”
With the help of his friend Paul Tagliabue, former commissioner of the National Football League, the committee implemented all of the advisory group’s recommendations, which resulted in favorable media coverage, a repaired relationship with constituent groups and ultimately to Probst’s unanimous reelection to a second four-year term as chairman.
Probst said these experiences taught him that success is a team effort, value systems are important, and that when change comes, use it to your best advantage.
“Change is inevitable,” Probst said. “It is almost always a good thing, and if you’re prepared for it, change can be your friend.”
Probst also was presented with an honorary doctor of business degree by Gilchrist A. Sparks III, chairman of the UD Board of Trustees, who remarked that Probst’s “strength and commitment have strengthened and renewed the organizations” he has led, including the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Faculty greeting and alumni welcome
Sheldon Pollack, professor of legal studies in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and president of the Faculty Senate, extended an invitation to members of the Class of 2012 to return to campus and share their career experiences after graduation.
“Keep in touch,” Pollack said. “Come back to visit, not just to see our beautiful campus, but also to look up old friends, including your former professors. I know they will enjoy seeing you.”
Darelle Lake Riabov, a member of the Class of 1973 and president of the UD Alumni Association, reminded students of the association’s slogan, “Students today. Blue Hens forever.”
“As you join other members of the Alumni Association today, it is my hope that you will remain active and involved with this select group,” Riabov said. “We want you to engage in a fulfilling and lifelong relationship with UD.”
At the ceremony, the national anthem and the UD alma mater were sung by Emily Amatulli, a senior music major in the College of Arts and Sciences.
From the graduates
Maxwell McGibbon, an exercise science major from Wilmington, Del., said, “I’m glad it’s over with and I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life.”
Alexia Testa, a history major from Hockessin, Del., said, “It’s super exciting to be here. I’m very happy. I would like to thank professor Mark Bambach [instructor in business education] for helping us by reading our resumes and being very positive.”
Anthony Valenti, an exercise science major from Wilmington, said, “This is the greatest day of my life. I’m looking forward to a career in physical therapy.”
Elizabeth Shrewsbury, an elementary education major from Middletown, Del., said, “I’m ecstatic about being here. I switched majors three time before I finally found the one that that I love and was excited about.”
Jessica Hill, an elementary education major from Middletown, said, “It’s very exciting to be here. It’s been a long time coming, and I am looking forward to teaching in Delaware.”
Xiaoyang Li, an electrical engineering major from China, said, “I now want to apply for a job and work hard in the real world after school.”
Xiaofei Li, a marketing major from China, said, “Getting here was not easy. I liked a lot of my classes, both inside and outside the major. I want to do my optional training practice and begin working.”
Anna Trenga, a criminal justice and psychology major from Newtown, Pa., said her “favorite activity was being a member of UDance, where it was wonderful to contribute to such an amazing cause.”
Ashley Jaekel, a finance major from Bordertown, N.J., said, “My favorite thing also was UDance, where we raised money for childhood cancer research. I’m looking forward to getting a job and maybe going to grad school.”
Monet Griffin, a psychology major from Philadelphia, said, “It’s exciting and just a little bit nerve racking being here. I enjoyed all my classes, even though they were very hard. The professors were very helpful when I needed it.”
Melissa Alvarado, an animal science major from Brooklyn, N.Y., said, “I’m finally done, after four and a half years. I’m working now and preparing for a job interview. My favorite class was "Crime and Punishment," and I also want to thank Seung Mook Hong, whom I worked for as a lab assistant.”
Related articles and resources
For an article about Sunday’s doctoral hooding ceremony, click here.
For a video of Winter Commencement, click here.
For more photographs of Winter Commencement, see UD in Photos.
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Ambre Alexander, Evan Krape and Stephen Pope