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WGU Graduate Speaker, Richard Todd Wood, Winter 2007
WGU Graduate Speaker, Richard Todd Wood, Winter 2007
Western Governors University
<p>Richard Todd Wood earned his Master of Business Administration. On February 10, 2007 Wood was a graduate speaker at the Winter 2007 WGU Commencement. This WGU Commencement took place at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>I’m very honored to be in front of all of you today. To our honorable president, provost, distinguished faculty members of Western Governors University, the graduating class of 2007, families and friends in attendance and watching live on the Internet. I just want to say that I am incredibly honored to be here before you today. This is a very, very special moment in my life. We’ve heard some wonderfully encouraging things starting with Dr. Stephens. Thank you, Dr. Stephens, for encouraging words. I’m really looking forward to my calculator. [Laughter]</p> <p>Make sure I get that, will ya? If I have any problems working it I’ll call you. [Laughter]</p> <p>So I knew that in preparation for today I wouldn’t need to say anything necessarily thought-provoking or inspiring. We’ve had those who’ve gone before me who’ve done a phenomenal job doing that. Maybe one day I’ll stand before a graduating class and my charge will be to deliver that inspirational message, but that’s not my mission for today. I even contemplated being the funny guy because every graduation needs one. It cuts down on the naptime of the audience. [Laughter]</p> <p>But then it dawned on me that I would be amiss if I stood before you guys today and the faculty of this fine institution and said anything other than thank you. My message today is not directed toward those of us who are graduating. I believe that there are others here today who have covered that and those of us who have received our diplomas and are getting ready to enter into the next phases of our lives, we have all that we need to go forward and do just that.</p> <p>The individuals I want to speak to today are the founders of Western Governors University, those who have provided the leadership at the board level for the last decade, and the faculty and administration of this fine school. The ones who have had the vision to begin this university deserve a lot of credit because as you well know, they have pulled off something that is very, very different than what anyone else has done.</p> <p>And with those words as my preamble, I greet the leaders and the faculty on behalf of us, the graduating class of Winter 2007 with that simple message, thank you. I believe the phrase “thank you” has in many ways been diluted by today’s society. Either people use it too often to acknowledge trivial things or it’s not used at all when it should be. In either of these instances many of us hear that so much that we tend to shrug it off as a cliché phrase. The context of the “thank you” that I deliver to you today, the faculty, on this day is one that is rooted in genuine appreciation of your efforts and the mission that you’ve committed your lives to to make us better.</p> <p>I first learned of WGU on an online discussion board. As I was getting ready to apply to several other schools I read a thread that mentioned WGU. And like many of us, I thought to myself, “Western Governors what?” There were four main things that were a requirement to me as I searched for that school for me to go and finish my MBA. First, the school needed to be accredited, of course. As we all know, WGU has so many accreditations that Dr. Mendenhall, I hear, might have to scrapbook them because he’s running out of wall space to hang them up. [Laughter] That is a wonderful problem to have.</p> <p>Second, I did not want a school that was so expensive that my CPA would have thought that my student loan balances came from a medical school. And third, I wanted an online program that is flexible to my schedule, and sometimes that’s a pretty crazy schedule. Like many of us, I’ve written papers at 3:00 in the morning plenty of times, finished assignments at odd times during the day when I had the time to do it, not when someone else told me I needed to have it done. That’s one of the most wonderful things about the school, is the flexibility to be able to adapt that to wherever you are in life.</p> <p>And finally, when I was researching where I wanted to apply I wanted a school to have great feedback from those who had actually been there. I’m a firm believer that a slick brochure means nothing if the personal testimony from those who have attended does not reflect what’s actually in it. And I can say that my experience at WGU has been exactly what I read on that discussion board. A young man had encouraged me, basically had listed his experiences and what he had gone through here at this school, and basically said, “Try it. You’ll like it.” And today I can stand before you and say that he was right.</p> <p>As we all know, a successful team must have a variety of different members, and WGU has such a team. Soon after I applied I was contacted by WGU’s fantastic enrollment department led by Christopher [Inaudible]. These guys were literally my first contact. They say you never can get a second chance to make a first impression, and they were my first contact. In the beginning it’s sometimes easy to wonder if you had made the right choice, and dealing with the enrollment department in the beginning helped assure me that I had made that right choice. I think I would also be amiss if I didn’t personally thank Christine Nielsen, my enrollment counselor. A lot of times it’s easy to forget about those guys that we talk to when we were applying. She was so wonderful that I remember I think I had really found the right place here. I don’t know if she’s here today, but Christine, thank you.</p> <p>And finally, we get to my mentor, Dr. Linda Gunn, who was the best mentor in the world. I know that everybody here says that their mentors are the best, and I defend your right to be wrong. [Laughter] Seriously, I know that all of you have probably had as great experiences with your mentors as I have as WGU’s assembled a fine faculty here of quality people. But I almost liken my journey through the MBA as going along the Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz. And I can say that Dr. Gunn was my guide along the way to everything that I possibly needed. She was my Tin Man, my Scarecrow and my not-so-Cowardly Lion and she got me to the Land of the MBA. I just want to say, Dr. Gunn, thank you so much for helping me along the way.</p> <p>No matter what I encountered she was there to guide me through it and to give me all the support and encouragement that anyone could ever hope for. I also feel like I should thank the WGU library staff, the bursar's office and the assessment department. These are the gears inside the engine that make this thing run that helped us get to where we needed to be, scheduling our assessments, making sure that our financial aids were applied correctly. All of these things came together and that’s why we’re sitting here today. So to each of those departments I want to say thank you.</p> <p>I’ve been in school for 24 of the last 28 years, since enrolling in kindergarten at age four in Whitfield, Virginia. And I have always considered myself never to be a big fan of school. It was just something that I felt like I had to do. Until I got here I never really enjoyed school that much. So for the first time in my life this is a bittersweet ending for me rather than just a sweet ending. I was always happy to be done previously and now I’m kind of sad that it’s over.</p> <p>For those of you graduating in the business program, I can say with your Bachelor’s degrees, and if you’re thinking of getting an MBA I can say go for it. If you’ve had a positive experience so far, which I’m sure you have, it will only get better from here. And if for some reason my speech has encouraged you to do that, please give me your name so I can go through the refer-a-friend program. You never can have too many gift cards. [Laughter]</p> <p>And last but not least, I want to thank my family, my mother and father who are watching on the East Coast, and also my wife, Wendy, who put up with me with a lot of late nights of writing papers when I probably was a little grumpier than I should have been. But she deserves a big thank you as well.</p> <p>And so my simplistic message comes to a close. I don’t know if this was the first graduation speech from a student that was directed solely at the faculty, but if it is, then perhaps what I said here today was long overdue. Honorable provosts, president, distinguished members of the board and dedicated faculty and staff of Western Governors University, on behalf of us, the graduating class of winter 2007, we say thank you.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
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