Note to Reporters: Photos of Muhtar Kent, John Hickenlooper, Ajay Menon and Patricia Cudd are available with this release at news.colostate.edu
The 2014 graduates of the Colorado State University College of Business were urged to take advantage of their unique place in history to transform the world not just with their business education but with empathy, kindness and service to others.
Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, received a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, during the Commencement ceremony held May 17. The honorary degree was awarded in recognition of his role in the relationship between the company and the University that provides support for students and academic opportunities around the world.
In his introduction, Dean Ajay Menon called Kent “a man of the globe, who is committed to the idea that business has the power to do good for impoverished people in the far corners of the world.” Menon cited Kent’s championing of the 5by20 initiative to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020, and his personal commitment to clean water and sustainability, setting ambitious goals for the company to reduce water consumption across all brands.
Kent told the graduates that their generation has the potential to change the world for the better like no other generation in history, given the technological tools and the advantages their education will provide.
“It will be on the watch of this generation that the face of the 21st century will change,” he said. “You are the most engaged, altruistic, informed and entrepreneurial generation ever, and you all believe not only that the world can be a better place, but that you can have a hand in that transformation.”
Kent’s advice to those going out into the business world included valuing and building on personal relationships – “never again eat alone” – and staying humble – “carry your own bags, always.” They should also “reject doubt, fear and cynicism” and build a respect for cash – “carry money and look at it; things fall apart when money is no longer real.”
His parting advice for the graduates was to understand that now, as part of the educated class, they have a responsibility to one another, to their community and to their country, “to give to those in need. And when you do, you will never ask why you don’t have enough of anything.”
CSU President Tony Frank introduced Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper with thanks for restoring to this year’s state budget $100 million in higher education funding, which had been cut during the recession.
“That’s an investment in every one of you,” Frank told the graduates.
In his charge to the Class of 2014, Hickenlooper echoed Kent’s sentiments.
“However you define success, whether it is starting a new business or overhauling the operations of a languishing enterprise, giving birth to the next new innovation or finding your place in a thriving corporation, you must do it with kindness and empathy,” the governor said. “When you take the opportunity to lend a hand or be of service without a quid pro quo, and look beyond yourself, you can nudge the universe with that empathy and kindness. So to all your academic honors and titles, add the title of Nudger of the Universe.”
Kindness and empathy was on display in the ceremony itself when Patricia Cudd, who is in the last stages of her battle with breast cancer, joined her master’s degree classmates in the walk to the podium. Although Cudd has not yet completed her degree in Accountancy, it was her greatest wish to be part of celebration, and the College of Business arranged for her to participate.
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