Wake Forest University Schools of Business seniors celebrated their success and received sage advice about their future during the Senior Banquet at Bridger Field house on April 5.
Mike Farrell, Chairman, CEO and President of Annaly Capital Management Inc. (NLY) and Chairman of the Wake Forest University Schools of Business Board of Visitors, shared a mountain climbing metaphor to explain what the graduating seniors can expect ahead.
“Within the next few weeks you are going to begin to climb a slope that you have had in your sights since elementary school,” said Farrell, whose son Michael earned his degree in finance from Wake Forest just last year. “For many of you, your achievements reflected what others wanted or expected of you. It is time to ask yourselves the question…what is it that you want?”
Farrell told the seniors to imagine that they are at base camp and their time at Wake Forest was spent building the fundamental skills and gathering the equipment necessary for the mountain climb.
The early part of the climb, he said, will be a “well-worn path, easily tracked and defined, but heavily wooded and armed with distractions.” Farrell noted that not all on the path will have the same destination and some will be slower, some will be faster, and some will stumble. “When they stumble, you will help them continue. Not everyone will say thanks and not everyone will help, but you will. Helping others in their climb will always come back to you in other ways, and at the end of your climb you will end up with the reputation you deserve.”
The middle part of the mountain climb is filled with bends and forks and is less defined and less predictable, according to Farrell. “Be careful where you step and whom you follow. Not all paths and all people will lead you to your destination,” he said. Also at this stage, many will fall behind and lose pace. “For many travelers, it will become a permanent camp,” said Farrell.
The next stage of the journey is less focused on individual success and more on others as these travellers are ready to lead the group. Here, Farrell said, “you are only to succeed as a group– nurturing, sweating and clearing a path. You will need all of your collective skills, passion and desire to succeed.”
Farrell told the group how he once came upon an antique piece of mountain climbing equipment called a piton, a spike that climbers hammer into crevices to secure their ropes. He shares it with his corporate team as a symbol of accomplishment, inspiration, and a reminder of the thin margin between success and failure. “There are moments when that slim nail is all that stands between success and disaster. It is all that stops you from being swept away from the rock when the wind changes and pushes you off balance and towards the edge.”
In closing Farrell told the seniors, “You are the next great generation. You are blessed by the continued sacrifices of your parents and the legacy of your grandparents. It is your time. It is your turn. It is your world. Go get it and don’t forget your piton.”
Following the keynote address, Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Gordon McCray honored seniors for their achievements. He recognized the following Beta Gamma Sigma honor society members at the banquet: Alison Brightly, Andrew Chaney, James Christie, Joshua DeWitt, Daniel DiBuono, Ryan Failia, Benjamin Goldman, James Griffin, Sean Gross, Todd Hanford, Benjamin Hayon, Hanna Legenza, Taylor Leibson, John Lucas, Mitchell Lurie, Richard McKenzie, Anna Michaels, Alex Miller, Holley Nelson, Jonathan Palmer, Megan Petitt, William Porter, Caroline Reinert, Samuel Ryder, Swayze Smartt, Roger Venezia, Elizabeth Wicker, Cari Wurzbacher, and Zachary Zimbile.
Megan Pettit received the Delmer Paul Hylton Accountancy Award recognizing outstanding academic achievement of a graduating accountancy major. This award pays tribute to Hylton, who served 42 years on the Wake Forest faculty, working tirelessly to make the accountancy program one of the highest regarded in the nation.
Afton Vechery was honored with the Spirit of Wayne Calloway Award recognizing the student who the faculty believes best embodies the ideals and values that were espoused by Calloway, a Winston-Salem native and former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo who died of cancer in 1998.
Pettit and Vechery were not present to accept their awards because they were in Istanbul, Turkey representing Wake Forest and the United States at the KPMG International Case Competition.
The Lura Baker Paden Award established in 1922 by Dean Simpson Paden, in memory of his wife, went to Cari Wurzbacher.
Benjamin Goldman was honored for outstanding achievement by a graduating finance major in the Schools of Business.
The award for Academic Excellence in Mathematical Business went to Kristen Wood.
Dan Kiley received the Levar Antwain Hairston Courage Award, celebrating and honoring the courage of the late Wake Forest University Schools of Business student Levar Hairston, who died in 2001 after a long struggle with sickle cell anemia.
Seniors Kari Heuer, Robert Kovarik, Tyler Pruitt and Tyler Starr received plaques from Professor Pat Dixon, Director of the Business Enterprise Management Program, for winning this year’s Business Simulation Challenge.
Dean of Business Steve Reinemund concluded the Senior Banquet saying, “The faculty and staff want to congratulate you, thank you, and wish you the best as you enter a new chapter in your life.”