Commencement Speaker Challenges AU Graduates

Commencement Speaker Challenges AU Graduates
Ashland University Commencement speaker Frederick Broad speaks to AU graduates from a bar stool located on gym floor in front of the graduates.

12/17/16 ASHLAND, Ohio – Frederick Broad, vice chair of the Ashland University Board of Trustees and co-founder of Packaging Specialists LLC in Pittsburgh, Pa., highlighted four distinct takeaways during his speech to graduates at AU’s winter commencement ceremony held Dec. 17 in Kates Gymnasium.
In his address titled, “Reflections of a Cardboard Salesman,” Broad, a 1975 graduate of Ashland, highlighted four areas that he believes are very important in a person’s life. Before he started to speak, he removed his cap and gown, put on an AU ball cap and took a seat on a barstool on the gym floor in front of the graduates.  

“Forty-one years ago I sat in one of these seats on a Saturday and I went to work for Packaging Corp. of America the following Monday selling empty, cardboard boxes. In 1982 I co-founded a company, then bought some companies, sold some companies, divested some companies and sold the whole mess back to Packaging Corp. of America in 2012. So, that’s the last you are going to hear about me because today is truly about the graduates.”

Broad went on to explain his four takeaways for the graduates.

1)      Tell the Truth.
“Genius right. After today, things change. It has been really easy to tell the truth to your family and friends. But now, there’s going to be academic and financial reward. So the dynamic completely, totally changes. Enron, World Com, Fortune 100 companies in the ’90s built on management teams that didn’t tell the truth, bankrupt now and many of their officers are in jail. Recently, Wells Fargo - 5,300 employees including the chairman of the board lost his job because they didn’t tell the truth. They falsified records and created two million accounts because of financial incentives. University of North Carolina is currently under investigation as to their student athletes – they falsified academic records and didn’t tell the truth. So as you embark on a new career or continue your career, I am fairly certain there is going to be an opportunity presented to you to exaggerate in the next year. Don’t do it, tell the truth.”

2)       Finish what you start.
“Think about how you feel today. You started something and today you are finishing it. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Mark Twain – ‘It’s really easy to stop smoking, I have done it a thousand times.’ Ponder and choose your starts carefully. Put yourself in a position to be able to finish – personally and professionally. You wake up on Saturday morning and say I’m going to do 10 loads of laundry. Well, particularly if you have to fold those stupid fitted sheets, you’re not going to finish 10 loads of laundry. Don’t say to colleagues, we’re going to meet every single Monday at 9 a.m. when you know that your Monday mornings are disruptive, unorganized and a lot of things come at you that you’re not expecting. Put yourself in a position to be able to finish what you start.”

3)      Do What You Say You Are Going to Do.
“Let’s get together and have a beer. Let’s schedule lunch. Oh, we really do need to put dinner on the calendar. I promise I will give you a call by next Wednesday. After today’s interview, we are going to meet on Tuesday and you will be hearing from me on Thursday.  We’ve all heard these right – we’ve all heard them. And, there is nothing as discouraging as disingenuous promises. So, as you continue with your careers or as you embark on your careers, you will discover who the go-to people on your team will be. And those will be the people who do what they say they are going to do.”

4)       Surround Yourself with Characters.
“We have a 27-year-old son, lives in New York City and works in finance, and he makes a living making fun of his father. He said, ‘Dad, you know why you’re delivering the Commencement address in December.’ I said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘Well, you need a Wikipedia page to be able to do the May commencement.’ So, don’t Google me - there’s no Wikipedia page. My response – Give me the December graduates because you’re different. You really are special. You fit into one of three categories – you’re graduating early, you had a hiccup and you’re a little bit tardy but you stuck with it, or you’re a non-traditional student just trying to get better. You are different – keep it that way. You know, those of us at Ashland University have a tendency to be a little bit risk-averse. Take on risk. Characters take on risk, characters change the world. Fight, fight the tendency to be risk-averse.”

You have all seen Dwight Schar’s name on a lot of the property, a lot of the buildings here at Ashland. I don’t know how many of you know Dwight’s story – it’s an extraordinary story. One of five children, raised in Jeromesville, Ohio, a single mom, was able to secure a janitor’s job at the A.L. Garber Co. working nights to support putting himself through college. He was married in college, had a baby, and became an educator. Needing to further supplement his income, he started to sell real estate at night and on the weekends. He fell in love with the real estate business and the rest of the story is he is now the chairman emeritus of one of the largest homebuilding companies in the country…Dwight’s a character. He took tremendous risks to provide an enormous amount of opportunity to provide jobs, careers and then turned around and through his philanthropy has truly changed the world. Please don’t be risk-averse. It will present an opportunity for you to change the world.”

Broad concluded his speech, noting that “it takes courage to keep it simple."

“To you, the traditional students, good luck as you are about to embark your careers. To the non-traditional students, congratulations on getting your life back and maybe now you can get caught up in your sleep,” he said. “Relish, please, in your experiences at Ashland. The longer that you are away from here, the more you will realize what a wonderful place it is and how well it has prepared you for life’s journey. Be supportive, come back often – congratulations.”

Following the commencement address, the presentation of degrees was handled by President Dr. Carlos Campo and Provost Dr. Eun-Woo Chang. A total of 371 degrees (207 graduate and 164 undergraduate) were awarded in the winter 2016 ceremony, including 3 doctor of education, 86 master of education, 85 master of business administration, 26 master of arts, 5 master of fine arts, 2 master of science, 18 bachelor of arts, 42 bachelor of science, 20 bachelor of science in business administration, 37 bachelor of science in education, and 47 bachelor of science in nursing.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( deeply 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.                                                                                ###