This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
News Bureau • Schofield Hall 201Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
fax: (715) 836-2900
Commencement Speaker Advises Graduates
To ‘Be Different and Make a Difference’
MAILED: Aug. 3, 2001

         EAU CLAIRE — Be different and make a difference, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire supporter Jan Ver Hagen told candidates for bachelor’s and master’s degrees during Saturday’s summer commencement exercises at UW-Eau Claire.
         “You have earned degrees from one of this country’s finest institutions of higher learning, and you have a great future in front of you. This is your opportunity to differentiate yourself and make a difference in this world,” Ver Hagen said.
         A vice president at Emerson Electric in St. Louis, Mo., Ver Hagen attended UW-Eau Claire for two years before completing his mechanical engineering degree at UW-Madison. He and his wife, Kathryn Fults Ver Hagen, a 1960 elementary education graduate of UW-Eau Claire, recently contributed more than $1 million of stock to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation Inc., which ultimately will fund an endowed chair in education. The Ver Hagen’s were honored with UW-Eau Claire’s first Lifetime Excellence Award at today’s (Saturday, Aug. 4) commencement exercises.
         In his “Charge to the Class,” Ver Hagen told students that their education at UW-Eau Claire will serve as an excellent steppingstone as they begin their careers, but, he warned, the competition for the best jobs is fierce.
         “Because of global competition, successful businesses are lean and intend to stay that way. When they hire, they look for the best and take their time to find those who have proven they can and will perform,” Ver Hagen said. “It is up to you to pay the price to set yourself apart … to be different and go the extra mile.”
         The business world is constantly changing, Ver Hagen said, encouraging graduates to continue learning and updating their skills even after leaving UW-Eau Claire.
         “Step outside your box. Learn all you can about the other disciplines in your work situation,” he said, adding that at his company each person is expected to understand the company’s vision and strategies and be an integral part of marketing as well as manufacturing.
         Ver Hagen continued by telling graduates they also can differentiate themselves by embracing change and taking risks.
         “Change is difficult and risky,” he said. “Many of your peers will let opportunities pass them by simply because they are afraid of change. But in Neil Simon’s words, ‘If no one took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine Chapel floor.’”
         Of course, being different should extend beyond work, Ver Hagen said.
         “It’s important to keep your career expectations and efforts to succeed in balance with your personal life,” he said. “It’s a tough balancing act, but it will make a difference in the lives of the people who matter most — your family.”
         Ver Hagen also urged graduates to lend a helping hand, share their gifts and talents, and get involved to make the world a better place.
         “Few have the opportunity to make sweeping societal improvements, but each of us has the chance to make some portion of our community a better place,” he said.
         “Our predecessors gave us much from which we have benefited. We need to make our contributions to afford opportunities for future generations. Putting something back into society is one of the most rewarding things you can do, whether it be in direct philanthropy or personal involvement in support of your church, a charity or other community need,” Ver Hagen said.
         Finally, Ver Hagen concluded by reminding students that because they live in the greatest country in the world and because of their liberal arts education at UW-Eau Claire, they will have opportunities in life to make a lasting impact.
         “As our future leaders, accept these opportunities and challenges. Be able to say, I was there, I was involved, and I made a difference.”
         UW-Eau Claire’s fall semester classes will resume Sept. 4.

UW-Eau Claire Home [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: Aug. 3, 2001