The University held commencement ceremonies for graduate and undergraduate students over the weekend of May 12–13. More than 192 students participated in the graduation exercises.
George Zimmer, Chairperson, CEO and Founder of Generation Tux and zTailors, spoke at the graduate ceremony, and Bernard Tyson, Chairperson and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Hospitals spoke at the undergraduate ceremony.
In his speech, Zimmer offered the insights he has gained over the last five decades. He started with the importance of careful listening which he defined as gaining knowledge and wisdom by paying attention and evaluating what others say with an open mind. Zimmer shared an example from 1999 when he listened to a district manager who suggested the Men’s Warehouse test renting tuxes in 12 Seattle stores. Despite resistance, Zimmer explained they did a pilot test and it was a huge success - which helped the company to be the men’s dominate tailored clothing company in North America. He added that to be a careful listener you first need to free your mind from preconceptions.
Zimmer’s next point focused on leadership. He explained that leaders lead best by caring about the people they work with and helping them be successful. He said that a “servant leader” creates win-win-win opportunities in the workplace and that individuals do not have to have a title of manager or executive to be a servant leader. Zimmer continued with a description of shareholder capitalism versus stakeholder capitalism. He commented that for public companies, stock prices and dividends drive decisions. The Men’s Warehouse made decisions based on the impact on employees and customers – who were the most important stakeholders. This focus and the resulting corporate culture placed the Men’s Warehouse in Fortune Magazine’s top 100 places to work for nine out of eleven years. Managers were made to feel special and in turn, managers made customers feel special. Therefore, shareholders benefited. Zimmer concluded by explaining the underlying common thread of careful listening, servant leadership, and stakeholder capitalism is to carry in your heart and express in your actions a simple rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
In his closing he shared “whether things in my life turn out good or bad I carry with me a sense of contentment and pride because I am living my values. Live by the golden rule and you will experience similar feelings, I guarantee it.”
Tyson discussed the impact his family had on his early life. He pointed out that the day after HNU's graduation ceremony was Mother’s Day. He made a grocery list of items he was going to pick up to prepare for a feast to share with his mother. He reflected that his mother had coached and counseled him to make sure that he stayed on the straight and narrow and that his father was a minister. Tyson recalled a time when his father dropped him off at a party and told him if “you get in trouble tonight and you will go to jail and your mom and I won’t get you out.” This scared him the whole time at the party.
Tyson told graduates that “tomorrow [Mother’s Day] is about the most precious gift you can give – your time.” He said that he has “learned that there are a lot of people who have decided that they will leverage time – and a lot of people who have decided that that they will waste time. Time is the equalizer that we all have.” He explained that his message “would not include career advice since most of it doesn’t work anyway – no one has a clear cut career in life – stuff happens.” He encouraged graduates to truly celebrate, to make “your own” history, and to achieve a major accomplishment in your life. He asked graduates to consider “what now happens tomorrow and how do you want to use time.” In his closing he said, “We live right now in a critical time in our country and in our society – one can drive motivation through the power of love; one can drive motivation through the power of fear. A lot of people in this country are using fear as a motivation. I hope you drive it through love. I hope you remember every day that you can make a difference in somebody’s life. Yes, you can. Find your passion.” Tyson also shared that he believes everyone should have access to the American healthcare system – his passion is to use his voice to promote that message and if the laws change, that it’s to add more people to the healthcare system.
The Founder’s Medal, which was established in 1958 by the faculty of the University, is awarded to a graduating senior who has demonstrated exceptional leadership. During Saturday’s ceremony, Sister Carol Sellman, vice president for mission integration, presented the Founders’ Medal to graduating senior, James Cogley. As a member of the social justice club, James helped to sponsor voter education sessions during last November’s election and as a voice for homelessness, he organized dialogs between HNU students and elder residents of St. Mary’s Center in Oakland. Sr. Carol also shared that James “is a budding poet laureate and has demonstrated his gifts as a master of ceremonies.”
Senior class representatives, Vina Mariel Banzuela Bautista and Frederick R. Howard Jr. provided the undergraduate student addresses.
HNU Board of Trustees Chairperson, Barbara Hood ʼ70 presented George Zimmer with a paper weight to honor servant leadership. Bernard Tyson was presented with a plaque for inspiring the graduates.