John Hixson, President and Chief Exeuctive Officer, LaBarge Products, Inc.
It seems like only yesterday I was sitting out there, listening to someone who was standing up here. A lot has happened since then. A lot will happen in your lives too - the years will fly by.
My name is John Hixson, and my purpose here today is to assure you that you have made good decisions in your educational career, and that you will make good decisions in your professional career.
I am not kidding myself - it is a safe bet that some of your educational decisions were not so good. But the big decisions - to enroll at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, and the decision to complete the degree program at the University, were very good decisions.
Similarly, not all of your professional decisions will be all that great. But most will be very solid, and the results of those decisions are likely to be very good.
Thank you, Dr. Womer, for inviting me to spend today with these graduates. It is also a delight to recognize Chancellor George, and all of the staff and faculty of the College of Business Administration.
Any success I might have enjoyed is 100 percent attributable to my decision to fall in love with a wonderful wife and partner, Fran. And my thanks go also to Fran's Mom and Dad, Lil and John Colombo.
I also want to recognize my late parents, Mary and Eldon Hixson for giving me the best gifts parents can give - their remarkable example of an honorable, productive, and loving life.
Very quickly, like some of you, I was a transfer student when I came to the University. After three years of too much party and too little study, I realized that I wanted to study business, and I wanted to study business at UMSL. My transcript would not support regular admission to the University. So I found myself in the office of Dr. Driemeier.
After a short visit, Dr. Driemeier made a couple of telephone calls, and I was in. I was admitted "on probation," but I was admitted. Now here is the important part of that story, and why it is important to you.
Dr. Driemeier did not know me from the man in the moon. Dr. Driemeier sized me up and decided it was worth the effort to give me a chance. He made it possible for me to get in. After that, it was up to me to stay in. I believe the College of Business Administration is still that way today - largely following the pattern set by Dean Turner and Dr. Driemeier.
Dean Womer and the faculty make every effort to get students enrolled and started on a sound path. After that it is up to the student to stay enrolled. You decided to enroll, and you decided to stay enrolled. Very good decisions.
I have been fortunate to spend a large part of the past 20 years or so in the close company of Charles LaBarge. During that time, he has been a vendor, a boss, a teacher, a business partner, and always a dear friend. Charlie is a little older than I and nearly every day when he comes into our office he says "I wish I were 20 years younger - there is so much exciting going on."
Charlie is right about most things, and he is dead on target on this one. This is a very exciting time to be in a business career. I think it is a terrific time for you to be starting your career in business.
Whether in a very large multi-national business going through major changes, or a small retail store on the corner, there are a world of new opportunities for people who want do a little more, and be a little more than everybody else.
Oh I've seen the newspapers, so I know that some of you may be struggling to find a job. If you are one of those job hunters, here is my advice to you -do what you know how to do, what has been taught to you and drilled into you here at UMSL.
Get out and work at getting a job just like you work at your studies. For some of you, the results will come quickly, and for others it may take a little longer and a little more work.
Trust yourselves, you will prevail. This early job hunt time, and this early job amount to a very small snippet when considered in the context of your whole career. You are an UMSL graduate and you know how to think and you know how to work. You have to succeed. For you there is no plan B.
Find a job, any job, and apply yourself fully. Do the best you can at what you are doing, and that will lead to the next opportunity. Make the best decisions you can, and then apply yourself to the work. That is what you have done here and that is what will carry you through to a successful career.
I am from a very small town in Northwest Missouri - Gower Missouri. My dad was born on the farm a mile south of town. He paid 100% of his way through school at the University of Missouri and majored in Agricultural Economics.
I asked my dad once whether Grandpa was a good farmer. He said Grandpa was a pretty good farmer - that certainly no one worked harder than Grandpa. Then he added a comment.
I wish I could remember his exact words, but here is the gist of what he said. He said that there are two parts to being a farmer. One part is how good the farmer is at farming, and the second part is how good is the ground.
A very good farmer, if the ground is poor, will have to work very hard just to scrape out a living for his family. On the other hand, even a poor farmer can do well if his ground is fertile.
So that is my advice to you - apply yourself fully to the ground you have, be alert for more fertile opportunities, and be willing to move on to those more fertile opportunities when they come your way.
Here is a quick observation - sometime here today, or later at a gathering of friends or family, someone is likely to comment that now that you have finished school, you will be joining the "real world" and things will be a little different for you. No more all-nighters cramming for exams.
Here is my personal comment, you are UMSL graduates - you have been in the real world for some time and you have done very well.
Your professional career will include plenty of all-nighters, and you can do that.
Most of you have been working steadily since you started school here. Some of you have been working full-time. Some of you have spouses or other family members for whom you are responsible. Some of you have children.
You know about juggling schedules, and fulfilling responsibilities. What part of the real world do people think you have missed?
Here is another recommendation for you. I strongly encourage each of you, within the next 5 days, to consider all of the professors who have taught you during your time here at UMSL.
This faculty - your professors, have fabulous backgrounds and qualifications. They could be on the faculty of any business school of their choosing. They choose to be here, and they choose to teach you!
You are here today because you have met the challenges they set before you. You have demonstrated to this faculty your ability to learn, and the discipline to work.
In their judgment, you are successful. You should trust their judgment.
It is not too late, and I encourage you to examine more fully their extraordinary qualifications. At the very least, you should be sure to know more about those who made a particular impression on you.
There will be a day in the not-too-distant future when you will want help with a difficult work related question, and you will be relieved and happy when one of your professors is eager to help you.
When that day comes, you will be particularly proud to hold your diploma, as I hold mine now.
I am genuinely impressed by all you have achieved, and I am genuinely excited by all that you will accomplish.
God Bless you all.