I want to thank Mount Wachusett Community College for what has truly been the experience of my life. I also want to thank Dean Zelesky and the incredible faculty and staff for all the inspiration, and at times the motivation, to get someone like me through what I thought would be an incredibly challenging experience. I have to thank all of my classmates. It was difficult at first being the oldest person in the classroom; perhaps the oldest person on campus, but your comradery and the great job you all did pretending that I was just another student got me through it.
Why did I come back to school? I can’t tell you how many times I got asked that question? You have no idea how many times I asked myself that very question (especially in math class)!
So why did I come back to school? I am a former international CEO and entrepreneur. I was blessed with a wonderful career. I traveled 1.2 million miles around the globe, and I conducted business in more than 22 countries and 38 states.
But I had reached a point in my life where I began to think that I just didn’t have it anymore….and that I didn’t want to do it anymore either. That I had achieved all that I could achieve; there were no more mountains to climb and most importantly, that I was too old to serve a useful purpose any longer. So, I quit working and I hung it all up. I thought many times about reinventing myself, but I lacked the motivation.
My family and friends became concerned. They saw that I had crashed hard from a fast pace life to that of a retiree and they could see on my face the desperate sadness that I tried so hard to hide. Having said that; the best idea they could come up with to solve my problem was; “why don’t you go back to school?” My immediate response was; “are you all out of your mind?”
But over time I thought about it and so, I did. I came to The Mount hoping to somehow find new inspiration. What I found instead were very challenging classes and a ton of homework. “Homework;” that word still sounds weird to me.
But what I saw in my classmates were their bright and hopeful eyes that I once had. That the future was before them and that they truly had the capability and the passion to conquer it…. The hunger to want to learn and most importantly understand what was truly important to them; something I had lost along the way.
I saw students and classmates demonstrate the energy, enthusiasm and a voracious appetite to learn all that they could learn; so that they could be; all that they could become. I found myself being inspired and motivated by students old enough to be my grandchildren and then something unexpected happened along the way; I found myself again; a second chance to make an impact on people.
I tried to use my new-found enthusiasm to give back to those who gave to me. I shared my experience and expertise with fellow students whenever I could; mentoring and providing career development advice whenever asked; even when I wasn’t asked.
To my fellow students….never, ever embrace the concept of “destiny,” for destiny means you are already predisposed to a future you have yet to impact yourself. I say face destiny and ask her to dance with you; and not the other way around.
To all of the professors and advisors that have befriended me; my message is that we have a responsibility to lift these students on to our shoulders so that they can see further than we ever could. Give them vision and give them hope.
This is truly an incredible day….We’re all graduating today. A very, very happy and well-deserved day; you worked hard for it, and you earned it! It’s a happy day for everyone; parents, students, family and friends here today. But….it’s not a happy day for me; because I don’t want to go; I don’t want to leave The Mount. I have found purpose again at The Mount and that is more valuable than the certificate I am receiving today.
Thanks to everyone for embracing me and for proving to me that you’re never too young; or never too old to learn. That learning gives us purpose and most importantly gives us hope. It has been a great honor and a privilege to know you.