Commencement Speaker Challenges Ashland University Graduates

Commencement Speaker Challenges Ashland University Graduates
David Blom, president and chief executive officer of OhioHealth, speaks to Ashland University graduates at AU's winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 14.


12/14/13 ASHLAND, Ohio – David Blom, president and chief executive officer of OhioHealth, challenged Ashland University graduates in two areas of their lives in his address during AU’s winter commencement ceremony held Dec. 14 in Kates Gymnasium.

“Wherever you are and whatever your next step is, I encourage you to think and appreciate the fact that your ability to use and leverage your college investment of time and money will be dependent on how you connect with people and your ability to connect with mentors,” Blom said.

“Oprah said it best. For every one of us who succeeds, it’s because there’s been someone there to show us the way,” he said. “Go find that person, reach out, connect with them. It will make all the difference. It did for me.”  

Blom told the graduates that they need to think about those two things as they begin the next chapter of their lives. “These are two things that, as a 59-year-old business man, husband, father and grandfather, I find helpful in guiding all aspects of my life,” he said. 

“First, your future success – no matter how you define it -- in financial terms, happiness, personal fulfillment or career accomplishments -- is dependent on your ability to communicate, but more so you need to be able to connect with people,” he said. “True connection is about people not just hearing your words but feeling something. Through your interactions they find something of value. That’s connection.”

Blom said the importance of connection was made clearer for him through a book written by John Maxwell, titled “Everyone Communicates, but Few Connect.”

“There’s a big difference between connecting and communicating,” he said. “Let me start with this. You’ve worked hard for your degree. Your document says you’re smart. You’ve mastered a body of knowledge. You set a goal and you achieved it. But frankly, your future success isn’t as much about what you’ve learned as it is to how you apply it and how you connect around it.”

Blom said he realizes that often times when people in this generation talk about being connected, they are talking about Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

“But what we all need to understand is those are merely tools that allow you to communicate -- that’s different than connecting,” he said. “Connecting is all about being able to relate to people in a way that inspires them, influences them to engage with you, to do something with you or for you.”

Blom asked the graduates to think about who they would consider to be “great connectors.”

“Is it a teacher or professor, coach or family member? What they do is they find common ground. They don’t focus on themselves or the subject or a task, they focus on others, they focus on you,” he said.

Blom used an illustration of a teacher who has a waiting list of students for his or her class. 

“Why is that? They may use the same book or the syllabus as another teacher. But what they likely have done is found a way to connect to the students to make the learning meaningful, relevant and inspiring,” he said. “Or maybe it’s the coach that you go back to visit years after you played on the team. Why do you do that? It’s likely because you connected with them. So a key to connecting with someone is remembering it’s not about you…it’s about them.”

Blom said the second key to success in life is finding a mentor and noted that it is never too late to find one.

“A mentor is someone who not only can provide you professional advice but a lifelong counselor. They can help you navigate challenges and celebrate accomplishments,” he said. “I encourage you to find mentors and when you do, don’t take those relationships for granted. Embrace them, lean into them and nurture them.”

Blom told the graduates that it is likely that during their college careers, people talked to them about the importance of mentors.

“Maybe you’ve taken that to heart, or maybe not. But I’ll tell you from my experience, the most significant accomplishments of my life have been shaped as a result of having mentors,” he said. “So whether it’s being a father, a husband or a grandfather, or my career progression, or just trying to achieve work/life balance, those have all been influenced by mentors.”

Blom said most people choose mentors because of their professional position or life experience, and most famous or successful people openly talk about their mentors and the role they played in their lives.

“But, regardless of who your mentor is, it needs to be someone that you like on a personal level, not just a professional level,” he said. “Someone you look forward to spending time with. The conversation should be pleasant, engaging and inspiring for everybody.”

Blom noted that he still has mentors today. “I still stay in contact with those who helped shape who I am and what I do. It’s fulfilling for them. It’s fulfilling for me,” he said.

Following the commencement address, the presentation of degrees was handled by President Dr. Fred Finks and Provost Dr. Frank Pettigrew. A total of 544 degrees (364 graduate and 180 undergraduate) were awarded in the winter 2013 ceremony, including six doctor of education, 207 master of education, 104 master of business administration, 23 master of arts, three master of American history and government, 21 master of fine arts in creative writing, 18 bachelor of arts, three bachelor of music, 35 bachelor of science, 28 bachelor of science in business administration, 55 bachelor of science in education, 36 bachelor of science in nursing, and five associate of arts.

Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###