Thursday, July 10, 2014

Concepts and Happenings

What comes from the mind is knowledge;
What comes from the heart is wisdom.
(Garth Brooks)

The following are “excerpts” from Mohawk College's Interim President's
convocation address to more than 4,000  students who graduated this spring.

Work Hard, Be Bold...and Enjoy the Ride!

As you get ready to begin your career, I'm about ready to call it a career after 50 years on the job.   Here's a half century worth of lessons learned...condensed to four pieces of advice:
     If you're offered a job working in a mailroom...take it.
     If someone who cares about your success offers tough advice...listen to it.
     If they offer a helping hand...grab it.
     And never stop learning.

My career started in the mailroom at International Harvester on Hillyard Street in Hamilton's industrial North End.  Today that building is home to McKeil Marine ~ a great supporter of our students, our School of Business and Mohawk College.

I spent my days sorting mail and resetting all the clocks in the building.  Every Monday, I'd call Ottawa for the official time.  And then I'd make my rounds.  Most executives said “Good Morning”.  But not the comptroller.  He'd ask me, “What are you doing about your life?  Do you plan to make a career out of working in the mailroom and setting clocks?”  To be honest, that sounded like a pretty good life!  I was making the princely sum of $64 a week.  I was driving a '54 Ford...and living at home in Hamilton's east end. I was working in the mailroom because my father gave me a choice on the day I dropped out of Glendale Secondary School in Grade 13. He instructed me, “Go back to school.  Get a job in five days...or get out of this house!”

The comptroller at International Harvester was persistent. He saw something that I didn't.  He offered me a job in the accounting department.  But to work there, I had to earn my accounting certification. To obtain this, I needed to go back to school. For the next six years I worked all day...took accounting classes two nights a week...together with my wife, raised a son and daughter. Going back to school changed my life and built a better life for my family.

Continuing my education opened doors at International Harvester. For more than 30 years, I worked at the  City of Burlington as a  treasurer, general manager and for a short time as city manager.  I finally called it a career in 2009.  The plan was to ease into retirement with some consulting work.

Five years ago, Mohawk College called requesting I take a temporary assignment to serve as interim president until our new president took the helm.  These past five years have been the best of my career because of you.  I've had the privilege to work with and learn from some amazing students. I can't wait to see what you'll accomplish and contribute at work and in our community. 

Here's why you should be excited and why I'm optimistic about your future. Old guys like me are about to retire in record numbers...and we're ready to hand over the keys.  We haven't solved all the world's problems. There are  many needs to be met...many opportunities to be seized...good money to be  made.

It is true that life is a journey.  The road is never straight.  It will twist and turn with some unexpected detours.  There will be miles of hard road.  Some legs of your journey will be a sprint.  Most will be a marathon.  So, work hard.  Take initiative.  Don't burn any bridges.  Be bold and courageous.  Never compromise your values and always stay true to your roots.

If you're lucky, you'll convince someone special to join you on the ride and be a good companion.  Surround yourself with great people...and some wonderful things will happen to you.  Never stop learning.  Always be the very best version of yourself.  And above all else, Enjoy the Ride!  Make it count and enjoy every minute.

Words of Moderate Wisdom for my Youngest as she Graduates

Paul Benedetti, teacher of Journalism at Western University
submitted the following Father's humourous overview in the Spec's June 21st issue.

As she graduates this week, I approach this event with mixed feelings.  They are a mix of relief and relief.  Relief that we have successfully ushered our youngest child through a social, emotional and personal maelstrom.  And that was just the gym class.  Relief, too, that the unbridled use of my credit card during the past 27 weeks as she prepared for The Prom has now come to an end. (Actually, Visa ended it when our balance ~ in relative terms ~ exceeded the Ontario Provincial debt.)  Who cares if her dress cost as much as a pretty good used car?  And if you count the shoes, jewellery, hair, nails and professional makeup, I could actually be driving a nice late model import right now!

In any case, we're pleased and proud that Ella has been successful.  But we're careful about the proud part.  Every kid, including each of our three, takes a different path through school, with a lot of hits and misses along the way. They were the ones in school and they experienced both the successes  and the setbacks as they went along.  I like to think that we kept them on course as best we could.

“Congratulations, graduates!  High School is over and as you head into the world, remember this:  Packing extra underwear is always a good idea. The world is your oyster, an unpleasant thought if I ever heard one.  Whether you choose college or university, you still have three or four years left of sponging off your parents.  Use them well.

“Remember, too, that almost everything you learned in High School ~ like the cosine or whether Tybalt  killed Mercutio or the other way around ~ is useless, unless your life plan is to be on Jeopardy. Remember, too, dear graduates, that all the petty rivalries between the Nerds and the Jocks, between the Brainers and the Tools, all that disappears, until you get your first real job in an office and then it's like 'hashtag deja vu'.  In college or university, you will encounter many new ideas and facts.  You'll learn that:  wet towels on the floor really start to smell after a while; that Karl Marx and Groucho Marx had a lot in common but mixing them up on a term paper is not a good idea (believe me, I know);  that one great course or one great professor can change your life and that the rest can be pretty boring;  that mixing anything ~ or anyone ~ with a large volume of tequila is always a bad idea; and that on any test of any kind, the right answer is usually C .”

Sage Advice...from Maya Angelou
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive;
and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.”

Merle Baird-Kerr...scripted June 21, 2014
Comments welcome...e-mail to:


  1. DAVID WRITES: "There is a vast difference betwixt
    Living and surviving! Surviving is boring!"

  2. Your concept is So True! Enjoy the Ride through Life!
    This is a basic ingredient to create Happiness!
    Thanks Dave for your comment.

  3. SHERRIE WRITES: "You took me back to the moment in time when I graduated from Grade 13 and went away to Registered Nursing College.It was the best 3 years of my life for learning about the "real world".
    Hear no Evil...See no Evil...and Speak no Evil: words my Daddy taught me to live by! This is my wish for all the new graduates out there today. You are on your adult path now. Make it Good and Make it Count!"

  4. Very prolific words about your post graduate studies and while there, maturing along the Road of Life to your destined vocation. Thanks for your personal comments, Sherrie.