Commencement speaker challenges Ashland University graduates

Staff report

Mark D. Kvamme, co-founder, principal, partner and founding partner at Drive Capital LLC in Columbus, challenged Ashland University graduates to have a goal to change the world during his speech at AU’s winter commencement ceremony held Dec. 19 in Kates Gymnasium.

In his introduction, Kvamme showed video clips from:

* Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who congratulated AU graduates and encouraged them to stay in Ohio because “Ohio is happening.” Kasich added, “Whatever you want to do, however you want to change the world, you can change it right here in the Buckeye state.”

* Jo Ann Davidson, national committeewomen for the Republican Party for Ohio, who congratulated AU graduates and wished them nothing but the best in their future.

* Golfer Jason Day, who congratulated AU graduates and wished them luck in the future.

“What is interesting about these three individuals, they are reaching the top – John Kasich is running for president; Jo Anne Davidson is one of the most amazing political women in the country and the first woman speaker of the Ohio house; and of course Jason Day, who this year became the No. 1 golfer in the world,” Kvamme said. “What is amazing about all of these people, they all pretty much started with nothing.”

Kvamme said Kasich challenged himself to get into politics and as a freshman at Ohio State University, he was talking with the president of the University. When he was told that the president was going to see President Richard Nixon the next day, Kasich asked if he could go too.

“When a door opens take it – I don’t care what the door is. If you can go do it – go do it,” Kvamme said.

When told he could not go with the college president to see President Nixon, Kasich then asked if he would take a note from him to give to President Nixon. The OSU president took the Kasich note and gave it to President Nixon and six weeks later Kasich received a call from the White House saying that President Nixon would like to see him and he went to meet with him, Kvamme said.

“Here is a guy who was 19 years old and had the intestinal fortitude to ask the president of a University to go see the President of the United States – if you ask for it, the worst they can do is say no. But if you don’t ask for it, you can’t have the opportunity to go get it,” he said. “I think that is a good lesson that Gov. Kasich has taught us.”

Jo Ann Davidson, born in 1927, was told during the early parts of her life growing up in Findlay, Ohio, that she would live on the farm and not have a career. But she wanted to help people from the beginning and she wanted to make a big difference here in the state of Ohio, Kvamme said.

“She lost several elections, then started out as a councilwoman, then became a member of the house and then the first female speaker of the house, and then a leader of the Republican Party,” he said. “So here is a person that when she grew up things were different, but she got educated and changed the world. She is an amazing person. She teaches us that no matter what society throws at you, or what society tells you the norm is this, you don’t have to do it. Do what you believe – do what you believe.”

Kvamme said Jason Day has an amazing story — “Jason grew up in Australia in very, very poor circumstances. His father passed away when he was 12. It was a very, very difficult time,” he said.

He said Day’s father got him into golf when he was dumpster diving looking for food and sustenance for his family when he found a golf club. “He gave that golf club to Jason and Jason got a passion for the game. And at age 12, his dad dies and he loses his passion for golf and almost gives up the whole thing,” he said.

Kvamme said his mom sees what is happening with this son and she sells her house to get Jason into a golf academy in Australia and Jason meets a guy who later becomes his coach and is his caddie today.

“And at age 13, he said, I want to be the best golfer in the world. And literally, this November, he became the No. 1 golfer in the world at age 27,” he said. “So think about that. He started with nothing. But he had a goal and went on to do it.

“So I would challenge all of you folks out here to have a goal, you can go make it happen,” he said. “No matter what it is…Jason has this great line – be ‘all in.’ Because if you are ‘all in,’ you can accomplish anything in your life, no matter what it is.”

Kvamme said he grew up in Silicon Valley and started working at Apple at age 19 and worked with Steve Jobs for 15 years. He told the story about how Steve Jobs and his partner wrote an ad titled “Think Different,” which helped to re-launch Apple in 1997.

Kvamme showed the video clip of the ad, which talks about the misfits, the rebels, the crazy ones, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently, and the people who can’t be ignored because they change things.

“Don’t be ignored – put your foot down for what you believe in. Do what you can do and do whatever it takes to go the next mile,” he said. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do. Every one of you in this audience can change the world and you gotta believe that because if you believe that, you will do it.

I want to end today by challenging you to be the crazy ones,” he said.

Following the commencement address, the presentation of degrees was handled by President Dr. Carlos Campo and Interim Provost Dr. Doug Fiore. A total of 274 degrees (127 graduate and 147 undergraduate) were awarded in the winter 2015 ceremony, including 5 doctor of education, 49 master of education, 61 master of business administration, 12 master of arts, 30 bachelor of arts, 39 bachelor of science, 23 bachelor of science in business administration, 42 bachelor of science in education, 11 bachelor of science in nursing, and two bachelor of fine arts.

Staff report