Commencement

David G. Otto, Principal, Edward Jones

 

Thank you for that extremely kind introduction.

My mom is sitting right over there and I don't think she even believes all of that.

You did leave out one thing. I was on the Dean's list when I was here at UMSL. At least, I was on a list that the Dean had.

Thank you for this opportunity to address the graduating class of 2005. It is an honor and I'm still shocked that I was asked to talk today. I was surprised when the Dean called and asked me to speak. He assured me that I was the first person he called...after the other 75 people turned him down.

But this isn't about me, it's about you, your accomplishment and your story that we celebrate today. I plan on spending the next few minutes telling you about the value of what you've just done....and I'll explain the story part too.

I work for Edward Jones, the world's largest investment firm dedicated solely to the individual investor. Based right here in St. Louis Missouri, of course you already know that, because of the Dome. We've been ranked by Fortune Magazine the #1 place to work in America two times and we've been in the top ten 5 or 6 times. The "place" of Edward Jones did nothing to set us up for that award....it was the people that work there that did it. You see, we're a partnership. The people that work at Edward Jones, own Edward Jones. We treat it like it's our business because it is our business. We treat people like we would want to be treated...because that's the best way to get the job done...oh...and they are probably owners in the business as well.

I say this because at last count we have 365 UMSL graduates working for us here in St. Louis and countless more working towards advanced degrees. 15 of those graduates are General Partners of Edward Jones, (Ken Cella is one of them, and he's going to talk to you about the Alumni Association in just a few minutes) which means our emotional and financial lives are tied to the firm.

If you owned a business, and maybe some of you do, you're basically looking for two qualities, two characteristics of your employees. First, they have to be smart. That's the base line that we start from. Second, and just as important, is that they have to have a great work ethic.

And St. Louis' best kept secret is that UMSL graduates have the best work ethic of any graduates in the area. Why? Because you did not come to UMSL to get your degree...you came here and EARNED your degree. Many of you, maybe most of you...worked one or two jobs while you were earning your way towards this degree. How many of you had to miss a class because you couldn't get out of a work assignment? How many of you took your books to your job so you could study during lunch or on a break?

Doing that doesn't necessarily make you a great worker...But choosing to do that, choosing to better yourself through higher education, choosing to take the harder path towards your degree builds character and lays the foundation for a great work ethic.

Would you rather earn your millions with hard work and sweat or would you rather win the lottery? O.K., maybe that was a bad example. When I was very little and first heard the term self-made millionaire I asked my mom what it meant she told me and I said that's what I want to be....and she replied...well you're in luck, 'cause it's the only way you're ever going to be one.

There's something about working towards a goal and accomplishing it rather than having it dropped in your lap and I think you all know what I mean. When I think back to my favorite classes in college...I always think back to the professors who, basically, taught me the least. Why? They were there to guide me and help me...but I had to learn the material. I had to put my shoulder to the wheel and figure out the answers. And consequently, those are the classes that I retained the most material from.

So what is your story? How did you get to where you are today?

My work ethic story is one of romance and intrigue. Well, more romance, but intrigue sounds more interesting. My girlfriend and I got engaged right out of high-school...and I made a promise to her Dad that I would not marry her until I got my degree and I had a job. So that gave me the push to get through UMSL in three years. Working in the summer, taking classes all year long and taking 18 hours during the semesters and you can do it.

I tell you that story because I was not the valedictorian of my class. My grades were "A's, B's and one C". I tell you that because when I joined Southwestern Bell AND when I joined Edward Jones, I told my bosses that I could virtually guarantee them that they did not hire the smartest person...but they did hire the hardest worker. And I've kept true to that promise for nearly 20 years.

And that's what you have in front of you. Knowledge AND Work Ethic...Brains and Brawn. And that's what it takes in the world in which I work. It's a powerful combination that you bring to the table.

My father and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about the type of person I'm hiring today. I told him that the main characteristic I look for in an interview and on a resume is...you guessed it...work ethic. It's hard to gauge in the interview, but I feel it's the most important decision I have to make in my hiring process. If you're smart, I can teach you just about anything you need to know....I can't teach you how to work diligently....I can't teach you not to procrastinate....I can't teach you to desire...

But you already have that. That's why, I think, we have 365 UMSL graduates working at Edward Jones....and we need more.

One of the best fixed income traders that I have working for me has a degree in Physical Education and a Masters in Physical Therapy or something...nothing to do with stocks and bonds....but she's smart and has an unbelievable work ethic. She could/can/will do anything she wants to in our company.

One of my UMSL hires a few years ago, Donna Cojocaru, came to me in an on campus interview. Her work ethic story is that she came to us from Romania...leaned a new language...landed in a new country and earned her degree.

One of the most embarrassing moments of my professional career happened at her interview. I was looking at her transcript and I had never seen all of the classes that she had taken...they had strange names and didn't line up with the traditional classes that I had seen on other students' transcripts. Well she had, as I recall, a 4.0 GPA from the Pierre LaClede Honors College at UMSL. I said to her (and here's the moment...I'm sure you can see it coming)..."I didn't know UMSL had an Honors College?"

I told Donna that one condition of her employment was to never repeat that I didn't know there was an honor's college.

Anyway, she's doing great at Edward Jones...she works in our Investment Banking department and hasn't told a sole.

Some of you have probably been called non-traditional students. Well non-traditional doesn't mean non-employable. Non-traditional, in my mind means you EARNED everything you've got.

Pat Reagan, a good friend of mine was a NON-traditional UMSL student in the early 1970's and now is the owner of a very successful DVD/CD duplication company here in town.

There are 365 partners and associates at Edward Jones who were non-traditional students.

The success that you seek comes from your intelligence and your work ethic...not whether you lived in a dorm or joined a fraternity.

We give non-traditional a great name.

In a few moments, assuming you're completely paid up, you'll cross from being a non-traditional student to being an Alumnus and an Ambassador of UMSL. There are 60,000 of us in St. Louis.

But we need TRADITIONAL Alumni. We need you to stay close with the college. It's a great feeling coming back here knowing you're in charge...you can come and go as you please...no classes to attend...or parking lot spaces to fight over. We need you spreading the word about UMSL to your friends, associates and colleagues...We need your financial support....we need your work ethic to rub off on the next generation of students. There are numerous opportunities for you to help out and help build a stronger alumni base. Imagine what we could do if all 60,000 of us put our mind to this task.

I ask you to do two things:

You know, I really wanted to study philosophy when I came here to UMSL...but I couldn't figure out a way to make any money doing it. I was just a couple of classes short of getting a philosophy degree and I probably should have squeezed them in somewhere. But over the last 20 years I've continued to study and dabble in the field. And as the great philosopher Steve Tyler once said....(he's the lead singer for the rock group Aerosmith)...Life is a journey, not a destination.

So congratulations on making it this far, congratulations on earning this degree and good luck with the rest of your journey.

Thank you.