Marymount University Graduates Encouraged to Take the Opportunity to “Become Servant Leaders”

During Marymount University’s commencement exercises, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture Tony P. Hall encouraged Marymount University undergraduate degree candidates to “take the opportunity that is always around” to serve by “doing the thing that is in front of you,” as Mother Teresa advised him when he visited her in Calcutta. Todd Stottlemyer urged graduate degree recipients to “seek success with significance” as a servant leader, as his company chose to do when its employees were faced with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. 

Hall addressed 696 degree candidates and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Marymount’s undergraduate commencement on Sunday. The event was held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.  Stottlemyer addressed 355 master’s degree candidates and 58 doctoral degree candidates at MU’s graduate commencement, which followed at the same venue. A consultant to and member of the Maximus Federal Services board, he is the former CEO of information technology company Acentia.

Both speakers drew upon personal experience in challenging students not only to lead, but to serve.  Hall is a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his humanitarian and hunger relief work.  A 24-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives, he chaired the only committee on hunger and the poor in Congress at the time. When it was eliminated by a vote from both parties, he protested with a 22-day fast. He recounted for the undergraduates, “I was amazed at the power when somebody steps out of his comfort zone and does something that is not easy.” Ten thousand high schools and several hundred universities joined the protest. New programs started, new legislation passed, and a global conference committed $100 million to the effort. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but God did – when I took the opportunity.”

Hall later became a leading global advocate for hunger relief programs and ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. He retired from official diplomatic service in April 2006 and is now executive director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger, which engages diverse institutions in building the public and political will to end hunger at home and abroad.  

During Stottlemyer’s service as CEO of his own technology company, the organization experienced the clear success of rapid growth, recognition and outstanding return for shareholders. “But it was the significance that was most important to me and what made me most proud of my company.”  Two hundred employees were impacted by Hurricane Katrina, and company offices were flooded and inaccessible.  “Faced with enormous uncertainty about our business in New Orleans … we made two important decisions. First, we committed to paying each of our employees until they could get back to work, regardless of when that occurred, and second, we committed to helping our employees and families rebuild.”  Stottlemyer encouraged graduates to think about significance in their own lives as they begin their careers.  

In closing, Hall wished Marymount undergraduates “that full measure of opportunity, justice, kindness, and gratification that we, as members of the United States of America, are privileged to enjoy.” He affirmed that “this land, this world, is full of opportunity,” while reminding undergraduates, “whatever you do with opportunity, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.”  Stottlemyer quoted New York Times Columnist David Brooks to Marymount graduates, who calls for a rebalancing of “résumé virtues with eulogy virtues: kindness, courage and bravery, integrity and honesty.”  Stottlemyer also noted for graduates, “The focus on success and significance is very much embodied in the Marymount University mission statement, which emphasizes service to others, personal and professional growth, and education of the whole person.” 

Photo captions:

Photo 1
Marymount University conferred 696 undergraduate degrees at commencement exercises at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. on May 17.

Photo 2
Elizabeth Mueller expresses joy at receiving her bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies with honors.

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Marymount University President Matthew D. Shank presents former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture Tony P. Hall with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Also pictured is Joseph Maurelli, chairman of Marymount’s board of trustees.

Photo 4
Todd A. Stottlemyer, former CEO of Acentia, addresses 355 master’s degree candidates and 58 doctoral degree candidates in an afternoon ceremony.

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Marymount University President Matthew D. Shank congratulates a graduate student after conferring her degree on Sunday.