Student speaker Richard Dentinger addresses fellow graduates

Thursday, June 5, 2014 7:20:00 PM

The following is the text of the student commencement address by Richard Dentinger, which he delivered at Stritch's  Minnesota commencement ceremony June 1 at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. 

Greetings President Loftus, Dean Holbrook, Associate Dean Loppnow, Professor Altaf, Jim Prom, Brian Luger as well as the faculty and staff from Cardinal Stritch University who are with us today.  In addition, a special thanks to the families, friends, and honored guests joining in what is most certainly a special day for the graduates as well as the university.

It took me a half second to answer “yes” when asked to put together some thoughts about our celebration. Those who have had the burden of living with me, working with me, or dealing with me as either a fellow student or perhaps as a pupil, would recall that I enjoy a little back and forth on almost any topic. So, speaking with you today is indeed a welcomed task.

First of all, let’s discuss the reason we are celebrating.  Whether completing our associate, bachelor's, or master’s degree, the College of Business and Management graduates are unique. We are “non-traditional” students.  We took a different path than “traditional” college students who upon finishing high school would become full-time students and pursue their college education full boar until completion.  Some of us even tried the “traditional” path once or twice before; perhaps even several decades ago as a sort of trial run. We may have been inadequately motivated once upon a time. Or we may have put off furthering our education for more defendable reasons such as a busy life or financial limitations. In recent years, however, each of us took a leap of faith and chose to become “non-traditional” students chasing our degrees. Because of the path we chose, most of us had a plate full of the responsibilities common to adults in the real world.  Most of us have full-time jobs, spouses, children, mortgages, and so on. Even so, we chose to add Stritch to our busy schedules. Whether we were trying to improve income potential, enhance job security, or attempting to break through a career ceiling, it proved to be a challenging and rewarding adventure.

Fellow graduates, we have enhanced our lives with expanded knowledge and deeper understanding of subjects important to our careers.  As an added benefit, we have cultivated strong friendships and networks from our interactions with fellow students from a wide spectrum of business and management environments.  In our cohorts, some classmates brought to the table experiences from small, closely held companies, others from regional employers, and some from Fortune 500 global giants.  That is the biggest selling point of the Stritch Business and Management program in my view.  That exchange of a wide range of experience while we worked on our group projects and papers wouldn’t be gained if we were 19-year-old traditional students just out of high school.  We are enriched from this experience. Congratulations.

So, we’ve acknowledged why completing our journey is worthy of a celebration.  Now, let’s discuss why it was such a prudent decision to invest in our degrees.  Why are these degrees so significant in the current business and management environment?  The answer to this question is quite clear.  But, before we go deeper into this subject, I want to first introduce you to someone. My mother is here today.  Shirley Dentinger. She traveled here from Milwaukee to make certain I hadn’t fabricated any of this graduation business.  She planned on being here 30 years ago. I never got the memo. My mother would likely suggest that her son always had the ability to graduate, but not in the traditional way. You may not have noticed, but I have grey hair. I just completed my bachelor’s degree and I appear older or actually am older than many of the faculty. I’m okay with this. It’s not their fault. My hair began turning grey when I was only sixteen.  About the same time my mom’s hair began turning grey. Mine was the result of simple genetics, while hers was due entirely to having to deal…with me.  Actually, I would suggest my mom’s grey hair was the result of pressures she faced as a business owner and manager.

After graduating high school my parents married and eventually had four children.  With essentially no wealth or horse-power other than big dreams, they chose to start their own construction business.  They never went to college. Early on my mother ran the household until the business grew to the point where she needed to work at the office…full-time. Reluctantly, she told my dad she would agree to work full-time, but only for a year or so until the chaos and change resulting from their growing business was under control.  In other words, she would work full-time just until the dust settled.  More than 25 years later, the dust apparently settled, as she finally retired.  My parents were poster children for the small business term known as a “ma and pa” shop. Like most businesses, their company bounced through decades of challenges. This included times of prosperity as well as precarious times when they teetered on losing their business, and much more, due to the risks common to folks with skin in the game.  Along the way, their company became a highly respected, high revenue small business operating in multiple states.  No Bachelor's in Business and Management degrees.  No M.B.A.s.  They were simply loaded with determination and leaned on strong values. The business world is different now. The world is different now. It’s smaller and busier. The changes they witnessed at the end of their careers reassured them it was time to allow new generations to toil with the roller coaster of change.  Business managers of my folk’s generation earned their bachelor's degree, master’s degree, and so on, from experiences they weathered while cutting a wake for each of us to slide into.  Sadly, the path they took is no longer viable in the modern business environment.

But, let’s get back to my grey hair.  Truthfully, I’m convinced that in lieu of any college degree, my grey hair helped me to pass as more worldly early on in my career. That, and my God-given talents such as the ability to fill in even the smallest amount of dead air within a room full of colleagues or customers, helped me to experience some success in my early business life. Similarly, I’m sure each of the other graduates here experienced success based on the natural skills and unique talents they each were given by God, regardless of their unfortunate lack of grey hair. However, as the business environment began changing at a more rapid pace in recent years, each of us began to realize we needed to enhance our skills.  The expansion of human resource departments, the onslaught of government regulations, an increasingly litigious business climate, and a precarious economic outlook, moved me to make the call to Stritch. I realized it would take more than hard work and natural skills to ensure success in today’s business and management environment. At least until the dust settles from all of this change.

So why does Stritch fit so well for those of us dealing with a changing business environment?  Having grown up in Milwaukee, and having attended schools in my youth that shared the values of Cardinal Stritch, I am genuinely proud of the name of the university listed above our names on our diplomas. I say this because of the mission of Stritch.  The Franciscan values of Cardinal Stritch University are the foundation of its mission.  They are:

  • Creating a Caring Community
  • Showing Compassion
  • Reverencing All of Creation
  • Making Peace

In addition, on the Cardinal Stritch website you’ll find this declaration:  “Students in the College of Business and Management gain critical skills and training to balance people, planet and profit in service to a greater good.”  I think most colleges and universities would claim the same. However, only a few would include the last portion of that statement. (Repeat)  “Students in the College of Business and Management gain critical skills and training to balance people, planet and profit in service to a greater good." Without profit there isn’t much ability to do much about the service to a greater good.  And without service to a greater good, life is shallow and meaningless. Cardinal Stritch University is unique in including all aspects of this formula in its mission.  This university understands that success in business and management, an ethical success, is a good and necessary aspect of our modern business world.  This success requires managers to be stewards of the interaction within the business world.

In some of our classes we studied important periods in human history focused on how often our country, our world, endured seemingly overwhelming challenges.  Civilization has suffered through natural disasters, plagues, wars, poverty, intolerance, revolutions and terrorism. Through it all, the human experience has always improved along the way.  We have enjoyed incredible periods of bloom through industrial revolutions and periods of renaissance. As a result the human experience gradually went from being very harsh, to a modern time in which much of the world is usually exhausted due to our efforts to perfect and secure our leisure.

Throughout history Business has been a driving force during periods of change.  For example, when the railroad industry evolved it was exciting and created jobs, opportunity, and enhanced many aspects of life.  Still, at first it wasn’t all pleasant.  Harsh working conditions and other growing pains made it a difficult process.  Until we figured things out and…the dust settled.  Similarly, when Henry Ford and others introduced exciting ideas and new business models, businesses and factories experienced growth.  But, they needed to figure out a proper and safe path forward.  As a result, the industrial revolution helped to give birth to the Human Resources department.  Businesses played a role in the process as the dust began to settle

It’s happening again.  Due to once unthinkable advances in science and technology, Business and human relations are changing at an unprecedented pace. It’s a tsunami of change. Smart phones, cloud technology, software fads, and increased government reach into the world of business have made our careers just oh so pleasant and stress-free. This is complicated further by the significant challenges within the financial infrastructure of much of the world.  Change is everywhere.  Industries are being created, restructured, or have become unnecessary. Each of us now operates in a multicultural and global business environment. As a result, we are each in highly competitive job markets.  Even so, this period of change also provides all sorts of opportunities for graduates. These factors are why the decision to obtain our degrees was so prudent. We are in a period of industrial bloom, and this time, we are at the front lines of the change, with a chance to play a role in how the dust settles.

Graduates, we must be focused on achieving an ethical personal success relative to our goals in life.  Income and success are generated from profit. It buys security, basic needs and opportunity.  However, we must also work to play a role in the bigger picture. Each of us has influence to ensure we protect all cultures, including our own, our planet, and to secure the continued strength of our country so future generations have similar influence. As graduates, we need to hold tight to the Franciscan values of Cardinal Stritch University and work to balance people, planet and profit in service to a greater good.  Congratulations.

In closing, I would like to give special thanks to the faculty and staff of Cardinal Stritch University. You have truly special jobs where you are charged with changing lives. Most importantly, you’re good at it. On behalf of the graduates, a special thanks to our employers and families for your patience as we spent countless hours away from work and family crafting spectacular papers and mind-blowing presentations.  Lastly, I’m certain the other graduates share in this sentiment; to those who have been in each of our cohorts, thanks for your friendship.  Good luck and God bless.