Lisa Binder, Commencement Speech
January 21, 2012 at DeSales University
Thank you Dean Booros and I add my welcome and my congratulations to the class of 2012 and their parents, family and friends. To the faculty and staff of DeSales University, I thank you for your continued service to your students and your dedication to excellence. To the leadership of DeSales University, Father O’Connor, Chairman Jim Kilcur, Dr. Karen Walton and the Deans, I thank you for your extraordinary guidance and the example that you set. It is truly a privilege to be with you this morning.
I come from a background of great privilege. I grew up in Northeast Philly. My mother’s suit was not like the one that I wear today. Her’s was an apron and a housedress. My dad was a WWII veteran who loved this country. He was a union carpenter and the years were especially good when we had mild winters so he could work year round. I was second youngest of six, with four sisters and a brother. My oldest sister was blind from birth. We lived in a row home and later when my grandmother moved in we moved to a twin home which I thought was grand because it had four bedrooms. I grew up with great privilege…
I had the opportunity to attend Catholic grade school and St. Hubert’s Catholic High School for girls. When I graduated in 1975, I was one of 750 graduates and I was part of the majority that did not go on to College even though I graduated with honors having taking AP and honors courses. Neither of my parents graduated from high school and none of my older siblings had gone on to college.
I was privileged to get a job as a teller in a wonderful Bank. Many of you may remember fondly PSFS and the school accounts you had there in days gone by. I began in the Mayfair Branch and almost at once fell in love with banking. I loved helping customers…trying to make some customer’s smile even when their smiles did not come easy.…and I loved being part of a team.
In 1979, I had the opportunity to move to our Allentown Branch and be a teller supervisor. It was in that year that I was afforded the great privilege of discovering the Allentown College of St. Francis DeSales ACCESS program and my life unfolded as it was intended. I enrolled in classes Mon and Wed and Tues and Thurs from 5:30 until 8 and 8:30 until 11 while I continued to work full time. Weekends were for homework!
I majored in Business Management and couldn’t get enough…It had direct correlation to the work that I was doing and I used to secretly try out the things that I was learning on my unknowing staff. I tried motivating in different ways, getting feedback and monitoring progress. I used new marketing techniques to try to grow sales. And, I began reading the Company’s financial statements to understand assets and liabilities. It was my great Petri dish…The Professors that I had and the great community of fellow learners that I enjoyed at DeSales, all came together to support this foundation of knowledge.
I also recall some of the challenges of our times in the early 80’s. Many people’s sentiment was that it was the worst of times and that our better days were behind us. My first mortgage rate was over 15%...unemployment topped 10% and the inflation rate was nearly 9%. Many bank s became insolvent as the result of foreign debt in developing nations. Many politicians seemed more focused on what was wrong with each other than finding common ground and working towards solutions for all of us. Words like terrorists and hostages became part of our vocabulary…Not unlike today, many were losing hope. And yet, I recall my dad talking about the great privileges that he fought for. We had the freedom of open and diverse debate and for the promise of education and innovation that could help us find our way out.
We also had growing numbers of women advancing their education. I was privileged to continue my learning here through the Wilkes University MBA program offered on Desales Campus.
Through the years, I have been afforded many great opportunities. I have a loving family and dear friends, a husband and life partner who is my soul’s mate. As a result of my DeSales education, I have also known great privilege in business- from my days as a teller to Regional President of Mellon Bank to Group Executive VP of Citizens and their 1200 Branches and 10,000 employees to President, Coo and Director of Associated Bank. I had the great responsibility and privilege to represent our nations’ Regional banks as a Director of the American Banker Association in meeting with Ben Bernake during the financial crisis. In 2009, at the pinnacle of my career in Financial Services, when I was recognized as one of the nation’s Most Powerful Women in Banking, I had the great privilege to transition my career to be of service to others as founder and President of my own company g2g associates where today I coach some of our finest executives.
I would humbly like to offer some observations that I believe are fundamental to both personal and career success.
- Hold onto your Faith and let it guide you in hard times as well as times of great promise. Be aware of the cycles of our lives and our times. Nothing stays the same and remember that change is inevitable but learning is optional. All of us in this room have been afforded great privileges in our lives. Sometimes they are less obvious to us as privileges and it takes time for them to unfold to us. or said simply by my mother, “Count your blessings”. ..because if you do so everyday…I think you will find that the list grows.
- Embrace the great paradoxes of our lives like humility and pride. Humbly listen with a genuine interest to learn from those around you and take great pride in who you are and what you have accomplished…and, Learn to compromise while holding firm to your values of integrity, respect, dignity and fairness to others..
- Take responsibility for your own success while advancing the success of others. Make giving back part of the fabric of who you are. Whether through mentoring, volunteering or simply in the support of other’s in their everyday lives… giving of ourselves in service to others is the foundation of our humanity.
- Try not to take yourself so seriously that you lose your ability to have a good belly laugh at your own expense.
- And, never forget the lessons that you’ve learned at DeSales University regarding commitment and hard work. In the world of business, this is a true differentiator. I celebrate with you today every class you attended that you had rather not, every hour spent doing assignments that you had rather not- but your work ethic moved you forward. And you will reap the benefits…On average, a college graduate will earn a million dollars more than a high school graduate over their work life and a Masters degree raises that by another Half Million. But today, you also reap that intangible benefit of gratification for a job well done and a goal set and met!
In closing, I recall the words of Dr. Stuart Heller, a writer and Psychologist:
"As you believe, so you behave. As you behave, so you become. As you become so becomes the World."
I come from great privilege in a time of great opportunity…as do each of you…
Congratulations and may this be your best life ever!