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Pegula, Salzburg Share 'Characteristics for Success' with Penn Staters

by on May 25, 2011 6:34 AM

On Friday, May 13, I attended the Penn State Worthington-Scranton graduation ceremonies to hear alum Terry Pegula deliver his first-ever commencement speech. On Sunday, May 15, I was back in town for the Smeal College of Business graduation ceremony and to watch my niece Shannon Brown receive her diploma. There I had the opportunity to hear Barry Salzburg, chief executive officer of Deloitte LLP, deliver the commencement speech.

Both speakers were outstanding in their own ways and essentially had the same message for the graduates.

Terry's speech focused on three key characteristics for success:

  • Do what you love; find a passion in life.
  • Hard work will make up for a lot of things, and outworking the competition is critical to success.
  • Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Terry spoke with great passion about sacrifice and effort and treating your employees with respect. If you take good care of them, they will go to the wall for you. He spoke of persistence and patience and learning from life's mistakes and not being afraid to make mistakes. He spoke of competition and why it's a good thing and that too many young people have a sense of entitlement for things they have not yet earned. He thanked the people who mentored him and helped him along the way.

Barry's speech focused on three key characteristics for success, as well:

  • Never allow your attitude to get too far down or too far up.
  • Help others in your organization become the best that they can be. Lead, coach, be ethical, stay grounded and stay focused.
  • Find the balance between work and life.

He, too, warned the graduates of "Utopian thinking" and described us as a country that became gullible, too easily excitable and just plain greedy. That led us to the brink of financial ruin, Barry said.

Too many graduates expect to be the CEO in just a few short years without having learned the lessons that can be learned only in the arena, by taking calculated risks and by being able to get back up from a fall with lessons learned. Barry encouraged all the graduates to be dreamers but to do so ethically, practically, and with sustainability in mind.

He ended his talk with a story about one of his recruiters who interviewed a recent grad, one who was at the top of his class, President of the business club, he had won all the most prestigious awards from his college. The recruiter asked what the grad's expectations were for salary and benefits.

The grad replied: "Given my GPA and my impressive list of accomplishments, I would expect $400,000 plus annual bonuses."

The recruiter responded: "How about we throw in eight weeks of vacation in the first year, a corner office, a company car, and we match your retirement savings 3 to 1?"

The astonished grad said: "Wow -- are you serious???"

The recruiter smiled and said, "No, but you started it!"

So I was inspired by what I heard, and it reminded me of some of the topics I like to discuss when I speak to various groups. As mentioned previously in a column, I am a big fan of a few authors such as Jim Collins ("Good To Great," "Built To Last"), Harvey MacKay ("Swimming with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive"), and Patrick Lencioni ("Death By Meeting," "Silos," "Politics," and "Turf Wars"), and others. Here are a few gems I have collected over the years.

What Is Mentorship?

"A significant, long-term, beneficial effect on the life or style of another person, generally as a result of personal one-on-one contact. A mentor is one who offers knowledge, insight, perspective, or wisdom that is especially useful to the other person." (Shea, 1992)

What Is "the Margin of Excellence"?

At the Margin, what will you, as the Mentor, do to be a difference maker?

At the Margin, what are you, as the Protégé, willing to do to be a difference maker?

Be a "Courageous" Leader

Surround yourself with "Great" people.

Be a "Courageous" mentor.

Go "Above and Beyond."

Follow the "Golden Rule." (Be nice!)

Have an "Attitude of Gratitude."

A puck in my office says: "EGOs Don't Win Championships, Teammates Do!"

Jim Collins says: "EGO's = "Eases Greatness Out"

"If we are going to be great, we need to be great together!"

"What are you willing to do more of, do differently, or stop doing in order to drive innovation through your life?"

"People are not your most important asset; the right people are!"

"Get the right people on the right bus in the right seats."

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." --Albert Einstein

"Surround yourself with people who will challenge you to be better." --Bob Johnson, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, U.S. Olympic Team

A few of my mentors:

  • Joe "The Belly Man" Battista (my dad!)
  • Dr. Ray Lombra, Associate Dean and Economics Professor
  • Dr. Paul Cohen, Distinguished Professor of Industrial Engineering
  • Lt. Colonel Dick "Black Bart" Bartolomea
  • Charles "Vance" McCullough, Former Army Ranger, Club Sports Director, Entrepreneur
  • Ruth Hussey, Former Academic Advisor in D.U.S.
  • Mr. Paul Fatur, Retired Lumber Executive, Booster Club President
  • Mr. Paul Cervellero, Retired President of Inductotherm, Icer Endowment
  • Bob Ford, Former Penn Hills Teacher and Coach
  • Paul Silvis, Head Coach of SilcoTek, Chairman of the Board of Restek

"Represent PSU with class at all times" --Dr. Ray Lombra

"It's easy to lead when all is well."

"Will you have the courage to make the tough calls at the right moments?"

"The only reason that anyone would follow this individual is out of sheer curiosity!" --written on a Marine officer's promotion review

"Am I Therefore Your Enemy, Because I Tell You The Truth?" --sign in Coach Paterno's office


A cab driver in New York City needed to raise money to finish his college degree. He kept his cab very clean, handed his passengers a business card with a mission statement "to get them to their destination in a safe, enjoyable and expedient manner." He provided musical selections, a selection of magazines and newspapers, and he sold fresh fruit, candy bars and bottled water at a small premium. He made enough money in additional tips in three years to pay for college!

When dealing with people: "Be fair, firm, consistent, and treat them with dignity!" --Dick Bartolomea

Follow the "Golden Rule" (Be nice!):

John Surma CEO of U.S. Steel, on "Mad Money," said that being nice to people makes a huge difference whether it's the janitor, the coffee-shop attendants, the staff assistants, the workers, the managers and especially the customer!

Woodcraft Industries owner Jack Campbell is the "Creator of Dreams"; his head of human resources is the "Director of Wow"; his receptionist is the "Director of First Impressions"; and their fitness room is the "Ambition Center." If his company makes it three months without an injury or accident, the whole company gets a picnic with hot dogs and hamburgers. At 60 days it's a chicken barbecue, and at 90 days without an accident it's steaks!

Have an "Attitude of Gratitude":

Write hand written thank-you notes, call people "just because" and remember those who have been an important part of shaping who you are and what you are yet to be!

Finally, I heard bestselling author Harvey MacKay speak at a MBA commencement in 1995. Harvey had the following advice:

  • Believe in yourself because if you don't, neither will anyone else!
  • Never stop learning.
  • Create your own path (follow your dreams).
  • Remember to "eat the heart of the watermelon"; celebrate life's successes!

It's a shame commencement speeches aren't heard more often!

Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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