Learning and Leading Learning and Leading

June 1, 2004
Remarks at Convocation College of Management University of Massachusetts, Boston

Thank you, Dean Quaglieri, for your kind introduction. Thank you, Chancellor Gora, Provost Langer, and again, Dean Quaglieri, for your Distinguished Business Leader award. I am very grateful for this honor, which I would like to accept on behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Congratulations to all of you who are graduating from the College of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. To you, and to your families and friends, I want to offer praise for the sacrifices you have made, and every good wish for happiness and success.

I am sure you see this milestone as the end of a long road. You have worked hard, and achieved a lot. You should be proud.

I hope you also will see this occasion as an early step in a lifelong endeavor. Your college education, undergraduate and even graduate, is essential to your overall education, but leaves that education far from complete.

In one of the finest autobiographies ever written, The Education of Henry Adams, the author, though a modest man, takes 505 pages to recount his life and his learning. His graduation from Harvard brings us just to page 69. And Adams closes the chapter on his college education by remarking, “Education had not begun.”

What I want to suggest to you is not just that we learn more from life and experience than we learn in the classroom. That is true, and I think most of you already have realized that in your own lives.

Moreover, your College of Management acts on this realization, by engaging the working and living world of Greater Boston. Dean Quaglieri, and the administration, and the faculty, have been very active in bringing the College's research into the community; explaining it; soliciting feedback on it; and learning from practitioners in ways that inform further research, and give the College's teaching and publications a practical orientation. This engagement is terrific, and we all need more of it.

A more specific point I wish to make is that to do well in whatever professional path you pursue, you will have no choice but to keep learning; to pursue education in a variety of forms as a lifelong endeavor.

Knowledge is emerging at an accelerating rate. Markets have become global. Technologies have transformed businesses. Outsourcing and “offshoring” of jobs is a complex subject which requires more thought than most newscasts and political sound bites give to it. Clearly, though, it demonstrates that nobody can afford to be complacent.

The content of jobs, and the skill set required to do a particular job, change constantly. So, you have to change, too.

You have to keep pace with change. If you have the right combination of hard work and good fortune, you can even get ahead of change once in awhile. You can be a leader, who anticipates change, and then helps other people to prepare for it, to embrace it, instead of hoping in vain that change will not come.

You cannot do this without continuous learning. That means more classroom time in your future, even though that may be the last thing you want to contemplate right now.

Even more, it means learning from your colleagues on the job; your peers in other organizations; your clients and customers; your competitors; maybe even from your bosses, if you can imagine that.

Please be people with a lifelong hunger for knowledge, and for wisdom. That hunger is a mark of an educated person.

I want to ask just one more thing of you, and it relates to the special character of your school.

The University of Massachusetts in Boston, is Boston's public university. Your College of Management is Boston's public college of management. Your school is here to serve public purposes. You are its graduates, and I urge you to serve public purposes, too.

You can do so, no matter where you choose to work: in business, in academia, in nonprofit organizations, in government.

You can be people who work hard to advance what is good for your organizations, and who take an interest in the public good as well.

As individuals, you can be engaged in civic efforts. You can bring your knowledge and skills to bear on vital public concerns such as affordable housing; and adult literacy; and early childhood development; and maybe even on adequate state funding for higher education.

As you move along in your organizations, and gain influence, you can be catalysts for engaging them in public issues as well. Boston, the cities and towns in the region, and the state of Massachusetts, all need more engagement, more help, more funding, and more share of mind from their corporate citizens, large and small, to tackle many important challenges and develop effective solutions.

Your roots here at the UMass Boston College of Management have given you skills and knowledge that can help. I hope these roots also give you a strong interest in being leaders who make a difference.

Thank you, and again, congratulations, and best wishes for the future.

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