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WGU Commencement Address from A. Scott Anderson
WGU Commencement Address from A. Scott Anderson
Western Governors University
<p>On February 12, 2011 the President and Chief Executive Officer of Zions First National Bank, A. Scott Anderson delivered the WGU Commencement Address. Anderson was also awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa. WGU President Dr. Robert Mendenhall confers the honorary doctoral degree. This commencement was held at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. This video contains both the awarding of the honorary degree and the commencement address.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall: I'd like now to introduce Lieutenant Governor of the State of Utah, Greg Bell, who will introduce our commencement speaker. [Applause]</p> <p>Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell: Ladies and gentlemen, honored students, members of the board, president, governor, faculty, and supportive families and spouses, children, parents and grandparents, I'm delighted to be with you today. Let me first make a remark or two.</p> <p>As I watched these students representative of ten-fold more who are here today, I see that most of you are not 22 years old [Laughter] as is common in most colleges whose classes walk across the stage having completed, usually in about four or five years their degree in a traditional manner. I looked up your footballs team's record. [Laughter] You have no Union Building, no fraternities. You have, in some ways, had a very different experience than people think of in college. Indeed, if your grandfather were to come back and he would tell you about his days at Purdue and he would ask you, well where did you take that class? And you would say, well, on my bed. [Laughter] And on the bus and on the plane. And, oh, what time was your class? Uh, 2:00 in the morning sometimes, and otherwise.</p> <p>It is remarkable that the delivery of this education has been what it has been. And yet, my shallow but somewhat grounded knowledge, is that you feel about your education about the way other graduates feel about theirs, that it fitted your situation and that you have an excellent education, as good as you made it. As good as you made it. And you are primed now to begin again the learning system we call life.</p> <p>When I went to law school and we had a tight group of friends and one of whom I kind of lost touch with and I ran into him, and he had gone to a firm that was an old school firm where -- we called them bag carriers. You know, every young attorney wants his own cases. Well, in these older firms, you had to be a bag carrier and first you were number three on the team and you'd go to court, but basically you were trundling things in and out and looking up depositions and then after four or five years, you became the number two bag carrier. Anyway, so I saw him seven or eight years after school and I said, "Reed, how's it going?" And I kind of expected him to express some discontent because he still hadn't had that big trial of his own yet. And he said, "Greg, school is still on." And that's been a theme of my life. School is still on.</p> <p>I'm the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Utah and most of what I do every day is learn. I don't often let people know how much I'm learning and how much I don't know, [Laughter] but I'm still learning a lot and I'm trying to learn fast and you can see that I'm not 22 either. And so I hope I continue learning for another 20 or 25years. I cannot express to you my depth of pride in what you have accomplished and the obstacles you can overcome. I don't exactly know what you've been through, but I think in general, I sort of understand what it's meant in terms of your sacrifice.</p> <p>We are very pleased and honored -- I remember the speaker at my commencement in 1972. I remember him, Richard Lindsay, a marvelous man -- or Arch Madsen, I'm sorry, the president of channel five. I don't remember him too well, evidently, but I remember a story he told. And I want you to mark this day because today you will hear really one of the finest citizens in the land and it's a privilege for you to do that.</p> <p>Scott Anderson is president and chief executive officer of Zions First National Bank, Utah's oldest financial institution, and the only local bank with a statewide presence, operating 106 full service branches in Utah, 25 in Idaho, employing 2,700 people in Utah and Idaho. In addition to the wide range of traditional banking services, Zions has been a leader in online banking, giving an array of investment, mortgage, insurance and loan-origination services for small businesses nationwide. Founded in 1873, Zions has been serving in the intermountain west for almost 133 years.</p> <p>A native of Salt Lake, Scott joined Zions Bank in December, 1991, previously having served with Bank of America in San Francisco and also in its Asia division in Tokyo. He received his bachelor's degree in philosophy and economics from Columbia University and his master's degree in economics and international studies from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.</p> <p>He has been a longtime supporter of WGU, and Zions Bank has provided significant funding for this institution. Under his leadership, Zions has been one of the first businesses to provide scholarships for individuals to attend WGU to become teachers, and many Zions Bank employees are currently students at WGU with their tuition paid through the bank's tuition reimbursement program, a remarkable thing.</p> <p>Anderson was a key driver behind Utah's creation of the Utah Science, Technology and Research Initiative called USTAR. His many meetings with legislators and other key partners led to the senate bill in 2006 formalizing the state's support for USTAR. Over the next 30 years, this investment, combined with future investment of 673 million will generate 242 new Utah based companies, 73,000 new jobs paying 5.5 billion in wages. Expected also to attract 3.1 billion in federal grants and 2.9 billion in additional state tax revenue.</p> <p>Dedicated to supporting innovation and education, Anderson supports academic excellence through his roles in the Western GU National Advisory Board, Southern Utah University Museum of Arts, U of U Community Leaders' Council on Internationalization, the University of Utah's Together We Reach President's Campaign Cabinet Committee, the U of U Board of Trustees, Middle-Eastern Studies and the Waterford Advisory Council. I always say of Scott, that if there's anything good happening in our community, Scott Anderson is not very far away. Mr. Anderson. [Applause]</p> <p>A. Scott Anderson: Well, it's a great privilege and pleasure for me to be here with you today. And as your parents and professors, family members, admirers and friends, we are thrilled to honor you, to celebrate your achievements and to encourage you to go forward on a new adventure.</p> <p>Jacob Bronowski's superb book, The Ascent of Man, said it all when he wrote, "Every civilization has gone forward because of its engagement with what it has set itself to do." The diploma you receive today certifies that you have gained a vast horde of knowledge. Western Governors University has bequeathed you a great legacy. Now it is yours to use and to share. So your task is not complete as you walk across this stage today. It is really only the beginning. As you move forward to your next adventure, do not get trapped by the daily complexities of work and of life.</p> <p>Everything, Timothy Huffaker tells us, relates to both and time and activity. "We have a choice every day regarding these two precious items. Time comes with birth and requires no effort, whereas activity is born of knowledge and belief. Time continues, regardless of what we do, but we do have a choice as to how we use our time." Or, as Joseph Epstein wrote, "All men and women are born, suffer and die. What distinguishes one from another is their dreams and what they do to make them come about." We do not choose to be born, we do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epic, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. Nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.</p> <p>So on this wonderful day, as we gather together to celebrate your academic success, let me share with you three thoughts that I hope will enrich your life, make your next adventure more rewarding, better prepare you for the workforce, and make your career more successful. The first is about creativity. We all have the need, in fact the necessity, to foster creativity in our personal lives and in our business careers. Creativity, I believe, is a sacred calling that should be nurtured and celebrated. We all possess it, but some allow it to flourish and guide them while others stifle and hide it. Do not let others discourage you from thinking differently. Do not let others discourage you from taking a new road, or coming up with a whole new idea, or looking at something in a new way. Be creative. Learn to be innovative.</p> <p>My wife and I recently enjoyed an art exhibit of the works of Wayne Thiebaud. At 90, Mr. Thiebaud is one of America's greatest, most successful and most famous artists. His works sell for millions of dollars. And what does he paint? A slice of chocolate cake, a rack of pies, a bowl of soup, ice cream cones, gumball machines. Now, some may wonder if this is really art. If painting a picture of two gumball machines qualifies as a piece of art. And they may wonder why some collector would pay three million dollars for that painting. But it is, and a collector did. Many may say, well I could paint two gumball machines. But the fact of the matter is, they didn't, and Mr. Thiebaud did and he sold his painting of two gumball machines, as I said, for three million dollars. So I call this The Thiebaud Principle of Creativity. As you go about life, as you go about work, do it with your own creative focus. Look at your task in ways that others have not. Be willing to alter your original plan to accomplish your goal. Allow yourself to think and to act creatively. If you do, you too will create something from nothing and leave your mark on the world.</p> <p>So in regard to creativity, my advice to you as you move forward is to remove any invisible barriers that you or others may have placed on you. And recognize that there are no limits to what you can accomplish. Surround yourself with things and people that inspire, so that when you begin to create, your mind will be clear and your senses will be sharp. And then, test the envelope of human creativity, intellect, energy and promise. Seek to motivate, to produce, to achieve, to grow, to unite. Be open to new ideas. Know when to draw the line. And remember that there are simply some things that are not for sale.</p> <p>My second thought is about education. We must all continue to learn. Our education is a never-ending story. The degree you receive today certifies that you have gained all of the core competencies. However, truly successful people go beyond these core competencies. They've learned to become familiar and enjoy ideas and abstractions. They are good at analysis and synthesis. They are self-disciplined and well-organized. They have the ability to learn quickly and to work well as a team member. They make the most of their environment and they have the flexibility to change when change is necessary and they make the most of their opportunities.</p> <p>So in regard to education, I recommend that you leverage the core competencies that you have gained at WGU and that you take advantage of your experiences in life and in work. Always finish what you start and then take pride in your work and take pride in your learning.</p> <p>My third thought is about leadership. Leadership is nothing more than the ability to get things started and to facilitate change. The art of leading starts with a vision, a mental picture of where you want to go. But that is just the beginning. It has been said, and it certainly is true, that a vision without the ability to implement it is nothing but a wasted wish. In business, this means that nobody ever made money out of an idea. It is the implementation of the idea that makes the money.</p> <p>Plutarch, the ancient Greek philosopher, wrote brilliantly about leadership when he penned, "What we achieve inwardly will change our outer reality." This is an astounding statement, yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses in part our inescapable connection with the outside world. The fact that we touch other people's lives simply by existing. Your WGU experience will intensify your ability to lead and your ability to touch other people. Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received give you unique status and with that status, unique responsibilities. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you work, the way you love, the pressure you bring to bear on government all will have an impact beyond your personal borders. Your privilege and your burden are to reach into the very heart of the community, to help solve its problems and then to share in its prosperity. J.R. Rawlings said, "If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice, if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but the powerless, if you retain the ability to imagine yourselves into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, it will be thousands of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better."</p> <p>So on this thought of leadership, I encourage you to be a leader. To develop your vision and get things started. To facilitate change, to live each day with courage, to be tough but fair, to talk less and say more. Great leadership is not always found in significant change or monumental transformation, but it is always found in heart and character, and often in simple things and simple tasks of which only you can do.</p> <p>In closing, I want to encourage you to remember and do one more thing. I encourage you to use your academic achievements we honor you here today to facilitate progress on a much grander scale than mere business success. I encourage you to use your influence to give back to society some of what you have reaped. I encourage you to use your newfound clout to change the reality of what is to what can be. In Jon Huntsman Sr.'s book Winners Never Cheat, Mr. Huntsman concludes by talking about the importance of giving back, even the obligation we all have to give back, regardless of what our circumstances are. Let me quote you from his book. He said, "No matter what the field, no star of any successful story is totally self-made. Along the way, all of us receive from others. Most of us are beneficiaries of lucky breaks. We owe a portion of our success to others and the only way to repay that assistance is by sharing good fortune."</p> <p>It is vitally important for each of us, for each of you, who are recipients of so much, to find opportunities to give back. This reaching out to give back has the unique ability to lift and build communities at the same time as it lifts and builds individuals, giving them hope for the future and pride in the past. This is as important a piece of truth as anything you can learn.</p> <p>In the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, a dying old professor named Morrie teaches life's greatest lessons to a former student who comes to sit with him each Tuesday. This former student has received great success and wealth and fame in the world, and yet he's confused by this success. On one Tuesday, Morrie asks his former student, do you know what really gives you satisfaction? What, replied the young man. Offering others what you have to give. Giving to others is what makes one feel alive. Not your car, or your house, or your paycheck. Not what you look like in the mirror, but what you give. When you can make someone smile, then you are alive and the world is good.</p> <p>So notwithstanding what has gone before you, not withstanding your pain or failures, your happiness or your success, I would encourage you to make the rest of your life a superior experience. Seneca said, "As is a tale, so is life. Not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters." Franklin Roosevelt said it this way, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough to those who have too little."</p> <p>During the Great Depression, many in California doubted that the Golden Gate Bridge should, or could, be built. But when it was completed, the chief engineer of the project, Joseph Strauss, said, "When people of good will join together in a worthy cause, and work tirelessly and unselfishly toward its realization, there is virtually no limit to what they can accomplish." And in fact, there is no limit to what can be accomplished. There is no limit what we can accomplish. And there is no limit what you can accomplish. The present and the future rest with you.</p> <p>So again, with one chance to live, make of it a superior experience. Benefit from the legacy that has been given you. Hold true to those truths that good people everywhere cherish. So go forth on your next adventure. Take your dreams, implement them. Build your future. We look forward with excitement to your next adventure and your next journey and we look forward to seeing all of your future achievements. You have our congratulations, our love and our blessings on what you have accomplished here at WGU. Thank you very much. [Applause]</p> <p>Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall: Thank you, Scott, for that great advice. And I will say to those of you who don't know Scott, that I know of no better example of the principles he's espoused than he himself. He has been a great contributor and supporter of the community, involved in so many community affairs. And in particular has been both personally and as Zions Bank, a great supporter of the university. We want to recognize Scott today for both his community and business accomplishments and particularly, the support that the university has received from the early years, both financial support and that of scholarships to students. And I consider it a great honor at this time, on behalf of our 19 member governors and the WGU Board of Trustees, to award A. Scott Anderson an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Western Governors University. [Applause]</p>
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